Dizzy spells are often harmless and can fade quickly, but if your disorientation exceeds mere dizziness, you may have vertigo, which often manifests as the illusion of the room spinning around you. Other times you may feel as if the inside of your head is spinning. Here are a few tips to help you understand the difference between mere dizziness and vertigo.

Understanding vertigo
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, there is a difference between dizziness and vertigo. If you are dizzy, you might feel lightheaded, faint or unsteady. You may find it hard to balance. These impairments may accompany vertigo but are not the spinning sensation of vertigo itself. Unlike dizziness, vertigo has a rotational, spinning component.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
Many people who experience vertigo have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — a condition in which a person develops a sudden sensation of spinning, usually when moving the head. It is caused by a disturbance within the inner ear. Common symptoms of BPPV are: an illusion of motion, nausea, vomiting, sweating, mild hearing loss and blurred vision. Stress and insomnia can exacerbate these symptoms.

Additional causes
There are medical conditions that often trigger vertigo, such as vestibular migraines. The vestibular system controls balance and spatial orientation, and as the name suggests, vestibular migraines encompass vertigo and chronic headaches. Another condition is Ménière’s disease, which affects the inner ear and can lead to significant hearing loss if not treated. Additionally, vestibular neuritis can cause extreme and harsh vertigo. Finally, you might experience vertigo if you have head trauma, such as a severe blow to the head.

To treat benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, some doctors may use either the Epley maneuver or the Semont method, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association. During both of these procedures, a doctor moves your head into different positions to try and make calcium crystal (canalith) debris slip out of the semicircular canal into an area of the inner ear where it will no longer cause symptoms. Medicine and surgery are available to treat vertigo but are often unnecessary because these methods are frequently  successful.