Light-headedness, Vertigo, and Imbalance

Our sense of balance comes from the coordination of three different body parts: the visual system, the inner ear, and sensory receptors (muscles, joints, tendons). A deficit in any of these three senses can cause dizziness.

“Dizziness” can be categorized into three primary types of symptoms: Light-headedness, vertigo, and imbalance. Depending on the specific body system that is impacted, a person might experience one or a combination of these symptoms.

As a general rule of thumb, light-headedness typically indicates a vascular system issues - something related to the flow of blood in the body, and particularly to the head.

True vertigo (spinning sensation) typically indicates something is not functioning properly in one or both of the inner ears (the vestibular system).

Imbalance without light-headedness or vertigo is often associated with the neuromuscular system of the legs and spine.


Facts About Dizziness and Balance

  • Vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance will affect 90 million Americans sometime during their lifetime.

  • Each year, over 9 million people consult with their doctors over complaints of dizziness, the number-one malady for those over 70.

  • Balance-related falls account for more than one-half of the accidental deaths in the elderly and cause more than 300,000 hip fractures per year in individuals over 65 years of age.

  • Some forms of inner-ear disorders — such as Ménière’s disease, benign positional vertigo, perilymph fistula, and endolymphatic hydrops — have symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable to most people. Since imbalance and vertigo can affect a person’s ability to stand and walk, see clearly, read, watch television, make decisions, and think clearly, these conditions are often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and clinical depression.

  • Children with treatable vestibular disorders are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as learning disabled, dyslexic, or psychologically disturbed.

  • Blows to the head and whiplash are frequent causes of dizziness.

  • Ear infections, such as otitis media, can also lead to vestibular disorders.