Have you ever felt like the room is spinning? Even more disorienting, have you ever felt like you are spinning while the room is still?
The terms “vertigo,” “dizziness,” “giddiness,” and “unsteadiness” are all often used interchangeably. But the truth is when it comes to dizziness or giddiness (चक्कर आना, in Hindi, a feeling of whirling or spinning about) versus vertigo (a sensation of whirling and loss of balance), these conditions have several key differences.
Identifying your symptoms and determining whether they apply to dizziness or vertigo is the key to treating your balance issue.
The balance system in your body is complex and involves different groups of muscles, joints, nerves, your eyes and the inner ear.
Symptoms And Causes of Giddiness And Vertigo
1. General Conditions
Hypotension. It is also known as low blood pressure (<90/60 mmHg). Most people experience a physiological variation in their blood pressure throughout the day, which is normal. However, a sudden fall in BP can trigger episodes of giddiness/dizziness.
Hypoglycemia. It is also known as low blood sugar (<70mg/dL) and is one of the factors that can trigger giddiness.
Anaemia. It is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells in your body (either the level of red blood cells or the level of haemoglobin is lower than normal). This may lead to a decreased oxygen supply of your organs causing dizziness.
Dehydration and overexertion/over-exercising. Dehydration or low water content in your body can trigger giddiness. Overexertion can also result in a drop in your blood pressure or cause dehydration.
Heart conditions. Conditions such as Tachy Brady Syndrome (a condition characterised by an abnormal heart rhythm) may lead to poor circulation of blood to the rest of the body causing fatigue, giddiness and even fainting in some cases.
2. Conditions of The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)
The peripheral nervous system consists of nerve cells outside of the brain and spinal cord (including the cranial and spinal nerves).
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). This is said to be caused by calcium deposits within the inner ear. The typical symptom would be a brief spinning sensation when you move your head suddenly (for example: turning your head to look over your shoulder at something behind you).
Meniere’s disease. This results from abnormal fluid buildup within the inner ear. It's associated with multiple episodes of severe vertigo (that last for minutes to hours), in addition to tinnitus (ringing noise in one or both of your ears), hearing loss, and ear fullness.
Ear infections. Conditions such as vestibular labyrinthitis, a viral or post-viral inflammatory condition that affects the eighth cranial nerve (also known as vestibulocochlear nerve, that connects the ear to the brain) and otitis media (infection of the middle ear) may also cause non-specific giddiness in addition to severe earache and reduced hearing.
Other rare PNS conditions that can cause vertigo are - otosclerosis, fistulas, Ramsay-hunt syndrome, Mal de debarquement syndrome, etc.
3. Conditions of The Central Nervous System (CNS)
The central nervous system consists of your brain and spinal cord.
Vestibular migraine. This is a type of vertigo that occurs as a result of migraine headaches (one-sided, throbbing headaches).
Stroke. This happens when it affects the brainstem or cerebellum (a part of the brain).
Tumours. Such as vestibular schwannoma, a benign (non-cancerous) tumour of the eighth cranial nerve.
Autoimmune disorders. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, SLE, common allergies, etc.
Incorrect doses of antihypertensives (used to lower BP), anti-epileptics, sedatives, antidepressants are some of the medications that may have the unpleasant side effects of causing dizziness.
It can also occur, as side effects of certain antibiotics and diuretics (drugs to expel urine).
5. Psychiatric conditions
Conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress (if you hyperventilate or breathe too quickly) can cause dizziness/giddiness.
Treatment For Giddiness And Vertigo
If you are struggling with balance issues, you know already, just how debilitating it can be. Dissecting your specific symptoms, whether they are related to dizziness or vertigo, or is associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, double vision, chest pain, etc., could be your first step to getting it treated.
An ENT specialist can help determine the reason for the giddiness or vertigo, and also devise a treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms. Sometimes, relief may be as simple as a single visit to a specialist’s office.
1. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Dizziness: What It Is, Causes & Management. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/6422-dizziness> [Accessed 17 August 2021].
2. Healthline. 2021. What Causes Dizziness?. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/symptom/dizziness#causes> [Accessed 17 August 2021].
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