MCV/Q, Medical College of Virginia Quarterly

MCV/Q, Medical College of Virginia Quarterly

Article Title

An Approach to Dizziness


Alan B. Grindal

Orginal Publication Date


Journal Title

MCV/Q, Medical College of Virginia Quarterly





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Last Page



Dizziness is a vague and ubiquitous symptom which frequently frustrates and perplexes the clinician. Dizziness in the broad sense implies any unpleasant sensation of disturbed relationship to surrounding objects. A number of synonyms such as faintness, light-headedness, giddiness, and swaying, although descriptive, are often no more specific. Problems in diagnosis, therefore, are due not only to the ambiguity of the term but also to the wide spectrum of disorders in which dizziness may be a prominent symptom. Although disorders of the vestibular system usually receive primary attention, it should be kept in mind that many neurologic, cardiovascular, psychiatric, and other disorders are not infrequently associated with dizziness. The term vertigo, on the other hand, is specific and may be distinguished from other forms of dizziness in that it implies a definite rotational sensation or illusion of motion. Although it is often impossible to make a differentiation between vertigo and other types of dizziness in the individual patient, the distinction is important as vertigo specifically reflects dysfunction in the vestibular system. The purpose of this paper is to review the anatomy and physiology of the vestibular system, to discuss the most common clinically significant causes of dizziness, and finally, to consider the practical office evaluation of the dizzy patient.


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