A lot of times, other healthcare providers ask me, “What is the difference between dizziness and dysequilibrium?” Although they are similar, there are a few differences.

The Difference Between Dizziness and Dysequilibrium?


“Dizziness” is a vague term commonly used by patients as a description of symptoms. Similar to a complaint of “pain,” the complaint of “dizziness” does not indicate anything clinically specific but warrants a detailed history and a thorough examination by a medical professional.

According to the Barany Society (a Sweden-based International society of vestibular experts), the difference between dizziness and dysequilibrium is that dizziness is defined as the “sensation of disturbed or impaired spatial orientation WITHOUT a false or distorted sense of motion.”

In most cases, patients with dizziness often complain of lightheadedness, a floaty feeling, or general fogginess in the brain.

Dizziness can be caused by many different problems, such as medication side effects, drug interactions especially with alcohol, medication errors, diabetes, blood pressure issues, nutritional deficiencies, anemia, dehydration, anxiety, panic attacks, irregular heart rate, etc.

Dizziness in the #1 complaint to physicians from patients over 75 years old in the US and is usually multi-factorial.

About 45 – 50% of cases of dizziness in older patients have an inner ear problem, or a vestibular component.

Vestibular problems are often unrecognized, especially in elderly individuals, and can lead to devastating falls, fear of falling and serious fall-related injuries. Ultimately, dizziness can result in a deterioration of quality of life.

Therefore, ALL OLDER ADULTS who are complaining of dizziness or vertigo, or having unexplained repeated falls, should be evaluated by a Vestibular Specialist to discover the ROOT CAUSE of their complaints.


The difference between dizziness and dysequilibrium is that dysequilibrium is a general feeling of being “off balance,” or being unable to remain upright and move through space with confidence. Most commonly, this occurs during standing or walking.

Dysequilibrium may also be described by patients as feeling “weak in the knees” or “my knees feel like they will buckle,” in the absence of quadriceps muscle weakness. The quadriceps muscle is on the front of the thigh.

People commonly interchange “imbalance,” “disequilibrium,” and “dysequilibrium.” Those are all three synonymous terms.

These are some of the key difference between dizziness and dysequilibrium. To learn more about dizziness, dysequilibrium and vertigo, please visit our sister site, BetterBalanceInLife.com.


This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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