How Do You Know if Dizziness is Serious?

  • By Dizzy & Vertigo Institute
  • April 30, 2021

It’s easy to brush off getting dizzy once or twice. But when dizziness starts coming and going repeatedly, you might start wondering: How do you know if dizziness is serious? Below we’ll describe the difference between Peripheral Vertigo vs. Central Vertigo. And what symptoms you should look for to know if your dizziness is serious.

Is My Dizziness Serious?

To be clear, we advise all dizzy patients, no matter what you “think” you might have to visit a vestibular specialist. All symptoms of dizziness have a source and a quality Vestibular (balance) Audiologist will be able to get down to the root cause.

However, when dizziness is accompanied by a few other specific symptoms, there may be something critical happening in your neurological or cardiovascular system.

Is your dizziness accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Confusion
  • Facial numbness or weakness
  • Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Ongoing vomiting
  • A sudden change in hearing

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms alongside your dizziness, then PLEASE visit your doctor or emergency room immediately!

These are the warning signs of Central Vertigo.

It means that you might have an issue with the vestibular functions in your central nervous system – specifically, your brainstem and/or cerebellum. If you’re unfamiliar, they are the brain structures that assist in coordinating balance, but more importantly operate many of our vital functions (breathing, digestion, circulation, movement).

What’s so serious about Central Vertigo, as opposed to other types of dizziness?

Peripheral Vertigo vs. Central Vertigo

Many causes of dizziness or vertigo are not life-threatening. Vestibular disorders such as BPPV, 

Meniere’s Disease, Labyrinthitis, or Vestibular Migraine are not life-threatening on their own. These are cases of Peripheral Vertigo. Peripheral Vertigo indicates that there are issues with your vestibular apparatus and/or vestibular nerve which is located in the inner ear and are largely responsible for creating your balance.

Even physiological causes of dizziness such as low blood pressure or dehydration are generally not life-threatening. These sources of dizziness are disruptive to your life and should be treated. But they aren’t nearly as serious as Central Vertigo.

To explain it through a metaphor, let’s compare Peripheral Vertigo and Central Vertigo to car troubles.

Peripheral Vertigo would be along the lines of having broken windshield wipers. It’s a big inconvenience and during bad weather you may not be able to drive. But the car itself still functions.

Central Vertigo would be along the lines of having a bad transmission. You may be able to roll the car along, but not without obvious problems. And if you continue driving, you may be damaging your car more.

Once again, you should still see a vestibular specialist no matter what you think your source of dizziness is. But if you’re experiencing those symptoms described earlier in this article, then you may be at risk or experiencing a condition classified under Central Vertigo.

To drive this point home further, some of the conditions associated with Central Vertigo include:

  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Brain Tumor

Our aim is not to scare you. Rather, we want to be clear how serious vertigo and dizziness can be in some instances. And you run a real risk if you let your dizziness go untreated.

Treating Your Central Vertigo

As we said before, if those Central Vertigo symptoms describe what you’re going through, then you should seek immediate help from the emergency room.

If you’re still a little unsure about the severity of your symptoms, our vestibular specialists at The Dizzy & Vertigo Institute of Los Angeles are a reliable resource to help you get to the bottom of what is causing your vertigo or dizziness.

You can reach our care coordinators by phone at (310) 954-2207 or you can schedule an appointment with us here.

We offer telehealth and in-person visits.

So no matter where you are in the United States, we’re equipped to help you get back to a dizzy-free life.

Posted in All, Blog

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