"Dizziness" is a symptom that frequently motivates a patient to seek medical attention. The sensation of dizziness may be experienced as light-headedness, spinning of the room or the body, swaying, visual blurring, or feelings of unreality.
It is important that descriptions of "dizziness" include the specific sensations experienced, since neurologists distinguish true vertigo (a sensation of rotation or spinning of the environment or the head) from non-vertiginous forms of dizziness. Causes of non-vertiginous dizziness can include low blood pressure, abnormal heart function, infections, medication side effects, or even severe anemia.
True vertigo may be caused by disease of the inner ear, brain, or brainstem disease. Inner ear disease may involve hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or ear pain, as well as certain physical exam and laboratory findings. Central nervous system diseases of the brain or brainstem that cause vertigo may involve poor motor coordination or loss of consciousness, as well as certain laboratory abnormalities. True vertigo may also be caused by medications, toxins, seizures, Meniere's disease, migraine, motion sickness, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, or trauma.
Treatment options depend on the underlying cause. Effective measures may include medications (e.g., antibiotics for inner ear infections, diuretics for Meniere's disease, anticonvulsants for seizure disorders, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants), psychotherapy, specific body positioning maneuvers for certain inner ear disorders, specialized diets (e.g., low salt diet for Meniere's disease), or removal of an offending medication.
A thorough examination and review by a knowledgeable physician is vital for the proper diagnosis and treatment of dizziness. Assessment may include checking blood pressure, performance of diagnostic and laboratory tests, or behavioral medicine evaluation.