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Vertigo

Vertigo versus Dizziness

What is the Difference between Vertigo and Dizziness?

Vertigo and dizziness, are symptoms rather than a disease. They do differ subtly with dizziness a potential symptom of someone suffering from vertigo. People often use the word "dizziness" when they are talking about a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Vertigo (a feeling of spinning or whirling when you are not actually moving).
  • Unsteadiness (a sense of imbalance or staggering when standing or walking).
  • Lightheadedness or feeling as if you are about to faint (presyncope). This may mean there is a heart problem or low blood pressure.
  • Dizziness caused by breathing too rapidly (hyperventilation) or anxiety.

What Causes Vertigo?

Vertigo refers to the sensation of spinning or whirling that occurs as a result of a disturbance in your balance (vestibular) system. Vertigo may be used to describe feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.

The sensation of movement is called subjective vertigo and the perception of movement in surrounding objects is called objective vertigo.

Vertigo usually occurs as a result of a disorder in the vestibular system (structures of the inner ear, the vestibular nerve, brainstem, and cerebellum). Your vestibular system is responsible for integrating sensory stimuli and movement and for keeping objects in visual focus as the body moves.

When your head moves, signals are transmitted to the labyrinth, which is an apparatus in the inner ear that is made up of three semicircular canals surrounded by fluid. The labyrinth then transmits movement information to the vestibular nerve and the vestibular nerve carries the information to the brainstem and cerebellum (areas of the brain that control balance, posture, and motor coordination).

The good news is that most vertigo symptoms will be eased by vertigo exercises.

What Causes Dizziness?

One of the most common causes of dizziness is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).

Others common causes can include inflammation in the inner ear, Meniere's disease, cervicogenic dizziness, vestibular neuritis, vestibular migraine and acoustic neuroma. Rarely, vertigo can be a symptom of a more serious neurological problem such as a stroke or brain haemorrhage, which is why you should investigate what is causing your vertigo or dizziness.

For more information, please ask one of our physiotherapists who have a special interest in vestibular physiotherapy.

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