Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Font Size

Telling the Difference Between Vertigo and Dizziness

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). This sometimes is called disequilibrium.
  • 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.

It is important for your doctor to know which of these symptoms you mean when you say, "I am dizzy," because the cause, diagnosis, and treatment are different for each symptom. When someone complains of dizziness, the symptom is vertigo only about half of the time.

For more information about whether your symptom really is vertigo, see the topic Dizziness: Lightheadedness and Vertigo. It can help you tell the difference between vertigo and other types of dizziness.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerBarrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Last RevisedApril 12, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.