Diseases & Conditions

Dizziness demystified

Vertigo can be disturbing and destabilizing. Learn what can trigger this common problem.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch
  • Reviewed by Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

illustration of a person experiencing dizziness, holding hands to the head and with red circles and stars above the head"Like a whirlpool, it never ends." This apt description of vertigo from Tommy Roe's 1969 hit "Dizzy" was fun to listen to when we were kids, but not so amusing decades later if you've endured the room-spinning sensation.

Originating from the Latin word vertere, meaning "to turn," vertigo can also make you feel unsteady on your feet, lightheaded, faint, or like you're in motion when you're not. Some people who have it also become nauseated and vomit. But whether it lasts for a few seconds or a few days, the highly common problem is rarely dangerous — though it can provoke falls, a leading cause of deaths from injuries in adults 65 and older.

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About the Author

photo of Maureen Salamon

Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has … See Full Bio
View all posts by Maureen Salamon

About the Reviewer

photo of Toni Golen, MD

Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

Dr. Toni Golen is a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, practicing in Boston. Dr. Golen completed her residency training at George Washington University Medical Center in 1995, and is an associate professor at Harvard Medical … See Full Bio
View all posts by Toni Golen, MD

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