When you're dizzy, you may feel lightheaded, woozy, or disoriented. If you feel like you or the room are spinning, you have vertigo. These feelings may make you lose your balance.
Dizziness can have many different causes. A sudden drop in blood pressure or being dehydrated can make you dizzy. Many people feel lightheaded if they get up too quickly from sitting or lying down. Certain medicines and problems with your inner ear may cause dizziness. So can motion sickness. Sometimes dizziness can be a symptom of other disorders.
As people get older, they may have more health problems and take more medicines. This makes them more likely to have problems with dizziness and balance.
Dizziness usually gets better by itself or is easily treated. If you are dizzy often, you should see your health care provider to find the cause.
The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements. If the system is damaged by disease, aging, or injury, vestibular disorders can result, and are often associated with one or more of these symptoms, among others:
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Imbalance and spatial disorientation
- Vision disturbance
- Hearing changes
- Cognitive and/or psychological changes
- Other symptoms
The type and severity of vestibular disorder symptoms can vary considerably, and be frightening and difficult to describe. People affected by vestibular disorders may be perceived as inattentive, lazy, overly anxious, or seeking attention. Functioning at work or school, performing routine daily tasks, or just getting out of bed in the morning may be difficult.
The following is a list of symptoms that have been reported by people with vestibular disorders. Not all symptoms will be experienced by every person, and other symptoms are possible.
Vertigo and dizziness
- Spinning or whirling sensation; a feeling the person or world moving when it is not (vertigo)
- Symptoms can be present while sitting still, in specific positions, or with movement
- Lightheaded, floating, or rocking sensation (dizziness)
- Sensation of being heavily weighted or pulled in one direction
Balance and spatial orientation
- Imbalance, stumbling, difficulty walking straight or when turning
- Clumsiness or difficulty with coordination
- Difficulty maintaining straight posture; head may be tilted to the side
- Tendency to look downward to confirm the location of the ground
- Tendency to touch or hold onto something when standing, or to touch or hold the head while seated
- Sensitivity to changes in walking surfaces or footwear
- Difficulty walking in the dark
- Muscle and joint pain (due to difficulty balancing)
- Trouble focusing or tracking objects with the eyes; objects or words on a page seem to jump, bounce, float, or blur or may appear doubled
- Discomfort from busy visual environments such as traffic, crowds, stores, and patterns
- Sensitivity to light, glare, and moving or flickering lights; fluorescent lights may be especially troublesome
- Sensitivity to certain types of computer monitors and digital televisions
- Tendency to focus on nearby objects; increased discomfort when focusing at a distance
- Increased night blindness; difficulty walking in the dark
- Poor depth perception
Visit the Neuro-Optometric Association's website for more information about balance and the illusions of eye movement.
- Hearing loss; distorted or fluctuating hearing
- Tinnitus (ringing, roaring, buzzing, whooshing, or other noises in the ear)
- Sensitivity to loud noises or environments
- Sudden loud sounds may increase symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention; easily distracted
- Forgetfulness and short-term memory lapses
- Confusion, disorientation, difficulty comprehending directions or instructions
- Difficulty understanding conversations, especially when there is background noise or movement
- Mental and/or physical fatigue out of proportion to the activity
- Loss of self-reliance, self-confidence, self-esteem
- Anxiety, panic, social isolation
- Nausea or vomiting
- "Hangover" or "seasick" feeling in the head
- Motion sickness
- Sensation of fullness in the ears
- Ear pain
- Slurred speech
An inner ear disorder may be present even when there are no obvious or severe symptoms. It is important to note that most of these individual symptoms can also be caused by other unrelated conditions and should be discussed with a health professional.