Dizziness and
Balance Center

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is any sensation of movement within the head that may or may not be accompanied by unsteadiness. Dizziness is a multifaceted symptom that can result in numerous different subjective explanations or sensations. Dizziness typically falls under 1 (or more) of the 4 main types: vertigo, disequilibrium, presyncope or lightheadedness.

  • Vertigo is the illusion of environmental motion, classically described as "spinning" or "whirling."
  • Disequilibrium typically represents a disturbance in balance or coordination such that confident walking is impaired and may be sensed as a problem with the legs or body and/or an abnormal feeling in the head.
  • Presyncope is the sense of impending loss of consciousness.
  • Lightheadedness refers to a sensation "in the head" that is clearly not vertiginous or presyncopal, and is not necessarily related to walking.

Dizziness (including vertigo) affects about 15% to over 20% of adults yearly in large population-based studies. Prevalence of vertigo rises with age and is about two to three times higher in women than in men. Depending on the type of dizziness, dizziness can be a single attack or recurrent attacks that last anywhere from seconds to days/weeks.

Some common sensations that individuals may feel are: rocking, floating, spinning, imbalance, floating, unsteadiness, disequilibrium, light-headedness, bouncing of vision, nausea, ringing in the ears, and others.

These symptoms and the triggers associated with dizziness are dependent on the individual and can be associated with numerous possibilities. Quick movements, repetitive movements, positional changes, large movements, closing of the eyes, and/or busy environments are frequently reported as provoking symptoms.