Giddiness vs Dizziness: Relation to Vertigo, Causes and Treatment Methods

Mar 12, 2024

Article by Hearing Partners, contributed by Jol Lie Teoh, Clinical Audiologist at Hearing Partners

Used to describe the feeling of fainting, lightheadedness or instability, the terms dizziness and giddiness are frequently used interchangeably. Vertigo, on the other hand, refers to the feeling of one’s surroundings spinning.

This article will explore the key differences between dizziness and vertigo. It’ll delve into the potential causes of these sensations and when to seek medical attention. Additionally, we’ll discuss some possible treatments for dizziness and vertigo, and address some frequently asked questions.

Differences between Giddiness, Dizziness and Vertigo

Let’s explore the terms dizziness and vertigo. Dizziness (or giddiness) is a general term to describe different sensations of motion including imbalance, woozy, lightheadedness and feeling you’re about to faint.

On the other hand, vertigo is a more specific term that refers to the false sensation of your surroundings spinning or whirling. Both dizziness and vertigo, depending on their severity, can make someone feel challenged or afraid of moving, causing discomfort and a lack of confidence, which in turn affects their daily activities.

Dizziness and vertigo share some accompanying symptoms, but they also exhibit different characteristics. Do note that dizziness can be a result of vertigo.

Depending on the causes, these are some of the accompanying symptoms of dizziness and vertigo:

DizzinessVertigo
  • Feelings of lightheadedness
  • Imbalance
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Haziness or heavy-headedness
  • Surroundings spinning or moving
  • Giddiness
  • Tinnitus
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Nystagmus (involuntary eye movements)
  • Causes of Dizziness and Vertigo

    Understanding the causes of dizziness and vertigo can help identify the most suitable treatment methods. Learn more about the causes below.

    Dizziness

    Woman sitting down due to dizziness

    Dizziness is often a symptom of an underlying health condition. Some potential causes can include:

    Physiological factorsPsychological factorsOthers
  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Motion sickness
  • Head injuries
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Vertigo

    Vertigo primarily arises from disorders that affect the vestibular system, located within the inner ear. This system plays a vital role in supplying the brain with crucial details regarding movement, positioning, and spatial orientation. 

    Conditions affecting the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, can also lead to vertigo. Several conditions that can contribute to the occurrence of vertigo include:

    Inner ear disordersCentral nervous system disordersOthers
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere's Disease
  • Vestibular Neuritis
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cerebellar stroke
  • Head injuries
  • Tumors affecting the vestibular system
  • Certain medications
  • When to See a Doctor for Dizziness and Vertigo

    Elderly man consulting a doctor

    If you experience frequent episodes of giddiness or dizziness that start to impact your daily life, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. Additionally, consult a doctor right away if you observe any of the following symptoms:

    • Chest pain
    • Drooping of the eyes or mouth
    • Numbness or tingling sensations
    • Blurred vision
    • Persistent severe headache
    • High fever
    • Persistent vomiting
    • Speech difficulties
    • Hearing loss
    • Tinnitus
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Fainting spells

    Diagnosing Dizziness and Vertigo

    You’re recommended to schedule an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist first. Following the consultation, the ENT specialist may recommend further diagnostic tests by an audiologist to identify the cause of your condition. Examples of such tests include Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (oVEMP or cVEMP), VideoNystagmoGraphy (VNG) and Video Head Impulse Test (vHIT).

    Upon completion of the diagnostic tests, the ENT specialist will review the results with you and advise on the appropriate treatment plan to address your dizzy spells or vertigo.

    Treatment for Dizziness and Vertigo

    In most cases, dizziness tends to resolve itself within a couple of weeks due to compensation, i.e. the brain adapting to the imbalance and recalibrating itself by taking reference from your daily movements. Hence, as long as you’re in a safe and supported environment, the best ‘treatment’ for dizziness is to carry on with your everyday activities (start at a lower intensity if necessary).

    However, if it persists, we recommend consulting a doctor, audiologist or neurologist who can conduct comprehensive examinations to determine the underlying cause. Your healthcare professional will create a tailored treatment plan to address both the symptoms and the cause.

    These are some of the potential treatments that may be recommended:

    Epley Maneuver

    It’s an effective way of treating vertigo caused by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). In the vestibule (the balance system in our inner ear), crystals play a crucial role in detecting our motion. However, when these crystals are dislodged and fall into the semicircular canals, inaccurate signals may be sent to the brain, resulting in vertigo.

    To address this issue, Epley maneuver, a series of simple head and body movements, will be carried out to reposition the dislodged crystals back to their respective position. The maneuver may need to be done multiple times to remove all the crystals from the canals and fully resolve the symptoms of vertigo.

    Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

    Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a tailored treatment for individuals experiencing dizziness, whether it’s caused by inner ear conditions, central issues, age-related degeneration or long duration of inactivity and sensory deprivation. It’s based on the concept of compensation – by enhancing vision and postural stability and promoting vestibular adaptation – to resume daily functions and movements.

    VRT is usually carried out by a trained physiotherapist or healthcare professionals who specialise in vestibular rehabilitation. It incorporates various exercises such as eye movement control, balance retraining, and stretching and strengthening exercises.

    Medication

    Medications are usually prescribed based on the severity of your symptoms and the cause of the vertigo. Betahistine is the most commonly prescribed medication to relieve vertigo and other inner ear symptoms such as tinnitus and hearing loss.

    Antibiotics or steroids would be prescribed if the vertigo is found to be caused by inflammation or infection. 

    On the other hand, diuretics are usually prescribed for Ménière’s disease to control fluid buildup in the balance organs. Medication may also be given to reduce the anxiety caused by the dizziness.

    Lifestyle Changes

    Addressing your feelings of dizziness can be achieved by making simple lifestyle changes. Whether it’s practising stress relief techniques or moderating your intake of substances such as caffeine and alcohol, these adjustments can play a crucial role in reducing the frequency of your dizzy spells.

    Movement

    Don’t be afraid of movements; the less mobile you are, the longer it takes to overcome the dizziness. Start with low-intensity movements that you’re confident with and ensure your safety by having structural support with you, like a walking stick or a family member.

    After building the confidence and strength for greater movements, slowly introduce activities that encourage quick head movements and changes in directions. Just like VRT, the goal is to resume your daily functions and movements, so try your best to move about.

    FAQs About Giddiness and Dizziness

    What should I do if I suddenly feel dizzy?

    If you suddenly experience dizziness, we recommend the following steps to prevent potential injuries:

    • Lie down

    Take a break from your current activities and lie down until the dizziness subsides. If you’re unable to find a space to lie down, try to sit down and position your head between your knees. After the dizziness has subsided, stand up slowly. If possible, find something to hold onto for support when standing up.

    • Move with caution

    If you need to move to a different location, it’s important to exercise caution and move at a slow, steady pace. Always hold onto a sturdy support to prevent yourself from falling.

    • Drink water and consume sugar

    If the dizziness is caused by dehydration, anaemia (low BP) or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), drinking water and having a candy can help to alleviate your symptoms.

    Can dizziness or vertigo be prevented?

    No, they cannot be prevented. However, you can lower your risk of experiencing dizziness and vertigo by staying hydrated, consuming regular meals, ensuring that you get sufficient rest and exercise and regulating your stress levels.

    As certain medications or substances (e.g. caffeine or alcohol) can cause dizziness or vertigo, you may want to manage your consumption levels. Additionally, we recommend avoiding events that can cause instability such as injuring the head and neck, and long durations of inactivity and uncorrected vision.

    Suspect you might have hearing loss?

    Your ears play an important role in your daily life and should not be neglected.

    Speak to our hearing care professionals regarding your concerns today.

    Schedule a free appointment

    Required fields are marked.

    *Hearing Partners does not offer ear wax removal services.

    "*" indicates required fields

    Name*
    By submitting the form, you agree to Hearing Partners’s privacy policy.
    Hidden
    This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    Don't wait! Book a hearing test at Hearing Partners quickly and easily!