Many different terms are often used to describe what is collectively known as dizziness. Common descriptions include words such as lightheaded, floating, woozy, giddy, confused, helpless or fuzzy. Vertigo, disequilibrium and pre-syncope are the terms in use by most doctors. Dizziness is sometimes a symptom of a balance disorder.
Vertigo is a specific medical term used to describe the sensation of spinning or having the room spin about you. Many people find vertigo very disturbing and often report associated nausea and vomiting.
Otologic causes of vertigo:
Typically if the vertigo arises from the inner ear, it is severe and has associated Nausea and vomiting. One common cause of otologic vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo BPPV. Alternate causes of vertigo originating from the inner ear include Ménière's disease, superior canal dehiscence syndrome and labyrinthitis.
Central nervous system causes of vertigo:
If vertigo arises from the balance centers of the brain, it is typically more mild, and usually has accompanying neurologic deficits, such as slurred speech, double vision or nystagmus. Alternately, brain pathology can cause a sensation of disequilibrium which is an off-balance sensation.
Often vertigo can be treated by the Epley maneuver.
Disequilibrium is the sensation of being off balance, and is most often characterized by frequent falls in a specific direction. This condition is not often associated with nausea or vomiting.
Pre-syncope is most often described as lightheaded or feeling faint. Syncope, by contrast, is actually fainting. Pre-syncope, or lightheadedness, does not result from primary central nervous system pathology. Nor does it originate in the inner ear. It is most often cardiovascular in etiology. In many patients, lightheadedness is a symptom of orthostatic hypotension. Orthostatic hypotension occurs when the blood pressure drops significantly when the patient stands from a supine or seated position. If loss of consciousness occurs in this situation, it is termed syncope.