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What Causes Vertigo and How is it Different from Dizziness

Representation purpose only

Representation purpose only

Vertigo is a sense of dizziness that gives the feeling of imbalance and a sensation similar to motion sickness or spinning of the surrounding.

Vertigo is a sense of dizziness that gives the feeling of imbalance and a sensation similar to motion sickness or spinning of the surrounding. It is an acute and sudden debilitating condition that affects the body in sensing balance. Usually, it lasts for a short period of time, but episodes may also linger. Nausea, vomiting, sweating, swaying or tilting are other symptoms of vertigo.

There are two types of vertigo: peripheral and central. Peripheral is the more common of the two and is caused by:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is caused by a problem in the inner ear and can result in vertigo spells that come and go. It is not a serious condition unless it aggravates enough to increase your chances of falling. A single episode lasts less than a minute.
  • Meniere's disease is an inner ear condition that occurs due to the accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. It causes long episodes of vertigo associated with ringing in the ear, eventually can lead to loss of hearing. The episodes may last for more than 20 minutes.
  • Vestibular neuritis, also known as labyrinthitis, is an infectious condition of the inner ear, mostly caused by viruses. It causes inflammation in the inner ear, affecting the surrounding nerves that are responsible for balancing the body.

Central vertigo usually occurs due to some malfunctioning in the brain stem or the back part of the brain (cerebellum) due to an injury or disease. It can be caused by a transient ischemic attack, brainstem infarction, multiple sclerosis and even migraines.

Homecare to prevent vertigo

The first episode of vertigo is not preventable; however, certain behavioural changes might help you prevent subsequent attacks.

  • Try to keep your head slightly propped up and avoid looking down from a height
  • Make slow body movements like when doing head movements, sitting down or standing up
  • Avoid rapid head movements, bending over or looking upward
  • Use the railing while walking up and down the staircase
  • Avoid travelling by fast-moving vehicles
  • Take care of your diet and avoid fasting

Dizziness

On the other hand, dizziness is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. It is a broader term to generalize various feelings of being lightheaded, groggy, wonky, confused or unbalanced. Dizziness, if it happens once in a while, is not something to worry about. However recurrent dizziness can be caused by a serious underlying medical condition.

Apart from vertigo, there are a few other conditions that may also present with dizziness:

  • Hypotension (drop in the blood pressure) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Certain heart diseases such as arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease or heart attack
  • Dehydration, loss of blood or decrease in blood volume due to trauma, diarrhea or anemia (iron deficiency or low hemoglobin)
  • Mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, panic attacks or stress
  • Conditions related to older age, migraine, pregnancy, motion sickness, ear infection and strokes
  • A side effect of certain medications

Some tips to prevent dizziness

Just like vertigo, the first bout of dizziness cannot be prevented but you can prevent further aggravation and subsequent bouts of dizziness. So, the first thing you should do is sit or lie down as soon as you start feeling dizzy as this averts a fall or injury. Rest until you feel better enough to resume activity.

To prevent another episode of dizziness you can try the following tips:

  • Consult your doctor to find out if the dizziness is caused by medications or an underlying disease
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as they may worsen the condition
  • Avoid moving or switching positions suddenly
  • Practice balance improving exercises
  • Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet
  • Take proper rest and sleep to avoid stress-induced dizziness
  • Walk slowly or use a cane while walking for better balancing
  • Use an elevator or use handrails if you take the stairs

It is important to understand the difference between vertigo and dizziness as it helps with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Frequent episodes of vertigo or dizziness could be a sign of an underlying health problem, so it is recommended that you consult a doctor.

For more information, read our article on Vertigo. Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor News18 is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.