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Is It Dizziness or Vertigo? Understanding the Symptoms

Nov 01, 2023
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It can be frightening when the room spins and your whole world seems unstable. What does it mean when you feel dizzy and lightheaded? Could it be vertigo? Is it serious? Get the answers here.

Dizziness can be scary — fortunately, it’s usually short-lived and not serious. 

However, when dizziness is a symptom of vertigo, you may require treatment to restore your balance and stability.

Our experienced neurologists at Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, are well-versed in diagnosing and treating vertigo, so you can move through your world confidently. Although vertigo always involves dizziness, the reverse isn’t necessarily true. Dizziness doesn’t always indicate vertigo. This blog explains the differences.

The main differences between vertigo and dizziness

Just about everyone has experienced dizziness at some point in their lives, and you probably know the feeling — faint, weak, or unsteady. It gives a false sense of your surroundings moving around you. 

On the other hand, vertigo is a specific type of dizziness characterized by the sensation of spinning or having the room spin around you.

Though dizziness is generally not serious and often resolves on its own, vertigo can sometimes indicate an underlying condition in the inner ear or brain, which requires medical attention.

What causes dizziness?

Dizziness is usually temporary and harmless. You could feel dizzy for many reasons, including dehydration, low blood sugar, changes in blood pressure, certain medications, and anxiety or stress.

Inner ear problems, such as Meniere's disease or vestibular neuritis, can also cause dizziness.

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo usually stems from issues in the inner ear or brain. Conditions like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere's disease, or vestibular neuritis can lead to vertigo. Less commonly, it may be a symptom of a stroke, migraines, seizures, or certain types of tumors.

You can also experience vertigo from a head injury or medical conditions, such as arrhythmia and multiple sclerosis.

Vertigo vs. lightheadedness vs. dizziness

It’s easy to confuse these three terms because they each have similar symptoms. However, the little differences make a big difference in how we diagnose and treat the underlying problem.

Lightheadedness is a feeling that you might faint, while dizziness is feeling unsteady or losing your balance. 

Vertigo makes you feel like you or your surroundings are spinning. Lightheadedness and dizziness often resolve by lying down, while vertigo sticks with you in any position, and certain head movements can trigger or worsen it.

What to do when you feel dizzy

If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down immediately to prevent falls and injuries. Take slow, deep breaths if the dizziness stems from anxiety or stress. If you're dehydrated, make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

When to see a doctor about dizziness

Although occasional dizziness isn’t usually a cause for concern, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience dizziness accompanied by a severe headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting.

If you experience vertigo, especially if it's recurrent or accompanied by other symptoms like hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears), it's important to come see us for an evaluation.

We offer advanced diagnostic tests — electronystagmography (ENG) and electroencephalogram (EEG) — to determine the root cause of your vertigo. We also provide customized vertigo treatment plans, including medication, physical therapy, and vestibular rehabilitation training to strengthen and restore your balance. 

Feeling dizzy? Contact Advanced Medical Care by calling us in Queens or Brooklyn or using our online booking tool.

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At Advanced Medical Care, care is not just a part of our name — it is in our hearts. Our providers strive to put our patients first and find solutions to meet their needs on every level. If you’re ready to start improving your health, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office in Queens or Brooklyn.