ICD-10 R42
ICD-9 780.4
DiseasesDB 17771
eMedicine neuro/693
MeSH D004244

Dizziness refers to an impairment in spatial perception and stability.[1] The term is somewhat imprecise.[2] It can be used to mean vertigo, presyncope, disequilibrium,[3] or a non-specific feeling such as giddiness or foolishness.[4]

One can induce dizziness by engaging in disorientating activities such as spinning.

  • Vertigo is a specific medical term used to describe the sensation of spinning or having one's surroundings spin about them. Many people find vertigo very disturbing and often report associated nausea and vomiting. It represents about 25% of cases of occurrences of dizziness.[5]
  • 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.
  • Presyncope is lightheadedness, muscular weakness and feeling faint as opposed to a syncope, which is actually fainting.
  • Non-specific dizziness is often psychiatric in origin. It is a diagnosis of exclusion and can sometimes be brought about by hyperventilation.[4]

A stroke is the cause of isolated dizziness in 0.7% of people who present to the emergency room.[5]



Dizziness is broken down into 4 main subtypes: vertigo (~50%), disequilibrium (less than ~15%), presyncope (less than ~15%) and lightheadedness (~10%).[6]

Differential diagnosis

Many conditions are associated with dizziness. However, the most common subcategories can be broken down as follows: 40% peripheral vestibular dysfunction, 10% central nervous system lesion, 15% psychiatric disorder, 25% presyncope/dysequilibrium, and 10% nonspecific dizziness.[7] The medical conditions that often have dizziness as a symptom include:[7][8][9][10]


Many conditions cause dizziness because multiple parts of the body are required for maintaining balance including the inner ear, eyes, muscles, skeleton, and the nervous system.[9]

Common physiological causes of dizziness include:

  • inadequate blood supply to the brain due to:
    • a sudden fall in blood pressure[9]
    • heart problems or artery blockages[9]
  • loss or distortion of vision or visual cues[9]
  • disorders of the inner ear[9]
  • distortion of brain/nervous function by medications such as anticonvulsants and sedatives[9]


About 20–30% of the population report to have experienced dizziness at some point in the previous year.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "dizziness" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ MeSH Dizziness
  3. ^ Reeves, Alexander G., Swenson, Rand S. (2008). "Chapter 14: Evaluation of the Dizzy Patient". Disorders of the Nervous System: A Primer. Dartmouth Medical School. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dons/part_2/chapter_14.html#chpt_14_presyncope. 
  4. ^ a b Branch, Jr, William T., Barton, Jason (February 10, 2011). "Approach to the patient with dizziness". UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/approach-to-the-patient-with-dizziness. 
  5. ^ a b c Neuhauser HK, Lempert T (November 2009). "Vertigo: epidemiologic aspects". Semin Neurol 29 (5): 473–81. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1241043. PMID 19834858. 
  6. ^ Post RE, Dickerson LM (August 2010). "Dizziness: a diagnostic approach". Am Fam Physician 82 (4): 361–8, 369. PMID 20704166. 
  7. ^ a b Chan Y (June 2009). "Differential diagnosis of dizziness". Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 17 (3): 200–3. doi:10.1097/MOO.0b013e32832b2594. PMID 19365263. 
  8. ^ Tusa RJ (March 2009). "Dizziness". Med. Clin. North Am. 93 (2): 263–71, vii. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2008.09.005. PMID 19272508. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Dizziness and Vertigo". Merck Manual. 2009. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec08/ch084/ch084e.html?qt=dizziness&alt=sh. 
  10. ^ Bronstein AM, Lempert T (2010). "Management of the patient with chronic dizziness". Restor. Neurol. Neurosci. 28 (1): 83–90. doi:10.3233/RNN-2010-0530. PMID 20086285. 

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dizziness — Diz zi*ness, n. [AS. dysigness folly. See {Dizzy}.] Giddiness; a whirling sensation in the head; vertigo. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dizziness — (n.) O.E. dysignesse; see DIZZY (Cf. dizzy) + NESS (Cf. ness) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Dizziness — Painless head discomfort with many possible causes including disturbances of vision, the brain, balance (vestibular) system of the inner ear, and gastrointestinal system. Dizziness is a medically indistinct term which laypersons use to describe a …   Medical dictionary

  • dizziness — dizzy ► ADJECTIVE (dizzier, dizziest) 1) having a sensation of spinning around and losing one s balance. 2) informal (of a woman) silly but attractive. ► VERB (dizzies, dizzied) ▪ cause to feel unsteady, confused, or amazed …   English terms dictionary

  • dizziness — noun see dizzy I …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dizziness — See dizzily. * * * …   Universalium

  • dizziness — noun The state of being dizzy; the sensation of instability. Syn: giddiness, vertigo …   Wiktionary

  • dizziness — Synonyms and related words: abscess, addleheadedness, addlepatedness, ague, anemia, ankylosis, anoxia, apnea, asphyxiation, asthma, ataxia, atrophy, backache, bleeding, blennorhea, cachexia, cachexy, chill, chills, colic, constipation, convulsion …   Moby Thesaurus

  • dizziness — (Roget s Thesaurus II) noun A sensation of whirling or falling: giddiness, lightheadedness, vertiginousness, vertigo, wooz iness. See AWARENESS …   English dictionary for students

  • dizziness — diz·zi·ness || dɪzɪnɪs n. vertigo, giddiness, light headedness; confusion, bewilderment; thoughtlessness …   English contemporary dictionary

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