Is Dizziness the same as Vertigo?

Dizziness is something many people experience, for various reasons and at any age. It can be described as a lightheadedness, feeling faint or a more general out of sorts experience of unsteadiness or a spinning sensation. It can also be accompanied by a loss of balance, even nausea and vomiting. Though often an isolated experience, with several known triggers, if it persists, and with other symptoms, it could indicate a more serious illness.

Prevention is better than cure, so proper medical advice is needed. Treatments for dizziness will depend on the likely cause of it and how often it happens. Getting proper treatment for an underlying condition should minimise the frequency or impact of dizziness spells.

5 Common Causes of Dizziness

At the low end, you might recognise your dizziness as a simple but temporary symptom of something you are aware of. This might be a flu, heat stroke or dehydration, an overzealous exercise session, hunger … or too much alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. However, those with diagnosed underlying health issues could recognise dizziness as a known symptom of blood pressure problems, migraine, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or low iron (anaemia), which they have medication to correct. In extreme cases, the dizziness could be a first symptom of an undiagnosed disorder (like those above) or infection, including neurological diseases, heart problems or stroke.

The part of the brain affecting balance is the cerebellum. It controls balance, movement and coordination. For the body to maintain balance, it also relies on three combined sensory subsystems; the vestibular (inner ear and balance), proprioceptive (nerves and muscle motion) and visual systems (spatial awareness). Disruption or damage to any of these systems could cause dizziness. The Balance Clinic can assist you with diagosis of Vestibular Disorders

1. Vertigo

Dizziness and vertigo are incorrectly assumed to be the same. If you suffer from vertigo, an inner ear condition, you think you are moving when you’re not, with unsteadiness and dizziness as a consequence. The phenomenon of ‘sea legs’ is a form of vertigo, with an ongoing sense of movement on dry land after time spent at sea.

2. Migraine and headache

Dizziness is a usual consequence of the intense headaches experienced by people who suffer migraines, which is a neurological disease. Tension headaches can also induce dizziness, but these are possibly the result of preventable causes such as diet and exercise, work practices, posture, stress or anxiety.

3. Medications

Some medications may cause dizziness as a side effect. This may be because of their effect on your blood pressure. Your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative drug to modify your reaction.

4. Blood sugar and diabetes

Drops in blood sugar can also cause dizziness. Diabetics are aware of the risks of hypoglycaemia if their sugar levels are not managed properly. As the brain needs sugar for energy, excessive exercise can leave you depleted and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can put you at risk of not just dizziness but fainting.

5. Age

Some dizziness and balance problems are often thought of as age-related. Anything that affects circulation Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative or herniated disc problems and infections (like meningitis) can put excess pressure on nerves to trigger dizziness. For teenagers, especially girls, dizziness is just one of several functional somatic symptoms (FSS), which are symptoms that apparently have no obvious clinical basis to occur in otherwise healthy people. Logically, but not clinically, linked to puberty, other FSS include pain, headache and fatigue.

What to do if you feel Dizzy

If you unexpectedly experience dizziness you can try some simple actions to provide relief. If you have a dizzy spell, lie down until your initial dizziness passes. When you get up, do it slowly and move cautiously, keeping close to hand holds and support. Ensure you get plenty of rest. Drink plenty of water and avoid stimulants like caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.