Is it Dizziness or Vertigo? Understanding the Symptoms

You may think vertigo and dizziness are one and the same. These two conditions can often be difficult to tell apart, but there are key factors that distinguish them. Knowing the difference can help us to treat it. The Neurology Center for Epilepsy and Seizures, led by Amor Mehta, MD, and his expert team, provides quality care for patients to find answers to their most pressing health concerns. 

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is a general term for lightheadedness, loss of balance, and disorientation. To maintain its balance, your body depends on several different body systems. Dizziness is a symptom of a health condition that affects those body systems. Some of these health conditions can include traumatic brain injury, low blood sugar, migraines, dehydration, and other neurological conditions. 

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is a specific kind of dizziness. It refers to the sensation you feel when your surroundings seem to be spinning in circles around you. Like dizziness, vertigo is simply a symptom of another health condition rather than the condition itself. There are several causes of vertigo, but the most common is an inner ear problem. 

Health conditions that accompany vertigo

Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease is one of the leading causes of vertigo. It occurs when there’s a buildup of fluid in your inner ear, as well as a change in pressure. This causes vertigo, as well as ringing in your ear and hearing loss. The disease is most common among middle-aged to elderly people. The underlying cause of Meniere’s disease is still a mystery, but some believe it’s caused by blood vessel constriction, a viral infection, or an autoimmune reaction. There seems to be a genetic component to the disease. 


Vertigo is also commonly caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This condition occurs when fluid and crystals of calcium carbonate found in your inner ear are dislodged and fall into semicircular canals. These canals are responsible for interacting with gravity to maintain your sense of balance. When the crystals fall into the canals, they touch sensory hair cells, sending wrong signals to your brain about your position. Inevitably, you feel like everything is spinning. Sometimes it only lasts a few seconds, but it can be longer. 


Another condition that can cause vertigo is labyrinthitis. This disorder occurs with an inner ear infection that develops inflammation. The inflammation can affect your vestibulocochlear nerve; this nerve is responsible for sending a signal to your brain about your position, motion, and sound. Along with vertigo, this disorder also produces hearing loss, tinnitus, headaches, ear pain, and impaired vision. 


Hormonal changes during pregnancy seem to play a role in producing nausea and dizziness in the form of vertigo. The hormones change the characteristics of the fluid in your inner ear. Along with vertigo, you experience hearing loss and ear fullness. 

Other leading factors

Apart from the common health conditions, vertigo can be caused by other factors. 

If you’ve recently had ear surgery or a head injury, you’re likely to experience vertigo from time to time.

Vertigo may be a common experience accompanying migraine headaches. 

You often experience vertigo after recently surviving a stroke. 

Syphilis, acoustic neuroma, multiple sclerosis, and brain stem disease can also produce vertigo. 

If you’re experiencing vertigo, perhaps you have a more serious underlying condition. To schedule a consultation with The Neurology Center for Epilepsy and Seizures, call our office or book an appointment online.

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