Dizziness: Distinguishing Between Vertigo and Lightheadedness
Feelings of vertigo and lightheadedness are often described as “dizziness.” However, these are two distinct feelings, and determining whether you are experiencing vertigo or lightheadedness will help your physician make a proper diagnosis.
If you feel as though everything around you is moving or is spinning, even when you are standing still and everything around you is still, then you are experiencing vertigo. This condition can be caused by inner ear conditions or vision problems. For some people who experience vertigo, the symptoms can be minor. Others who experience severe vertigo may find it difficult to maintain proper balance and to perform what would normally be simple everyday tasks. Vertigo may also cause the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty standing still or walking properly
Whenever there is a conflict between your internal position-sensing system and the signals that are sent to your brain, vertigo is likely to occur. For instance, if you have an inner ear condition, false signals indicating motion may be sent to the brain. Vision problems may also cause improper signals to be sent to your brain concerning your position in space.
Most people feel lightheaded every once in a while. A chronic feeling of lightheadedness does merit taking a closer look at the root causes. Symptoms include feeling faint or as though you are about to pass out. Unlike vertigo, you won’t feel as though the room is spinning or your surroundings are moving, although you may feel a sense of nausea when you are lightheaded.
There are many conditions that can cause feelings of lightheadedness including chronic anxiety or stress, allergies, the use of alcohol or tobacco (or other drugs), the flu, the common cold, hyperventilation (rapid breathing), and dehydration. More serious causes of lightheadedness include bleeding (internal or external) or arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).