Dizziness: Approach to Evaluation and Management

Dizziness is a common yet imprecise symptom. It was traditionally divided into four categories based on the patient’s history: vertigo, presyncope, disequilibrium, and light-headedness. However, the distinction between these symptoms is of limited clinical usefulness | American family Physician

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Patients have difficulty describing the quality of their symptoms but can more consistently identify the timing and triggers. Episodic vertigo triggered by head motion may be due to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Vertigo with unilateral hearing loss suggests Meniere disease. Episodic vertigo not associated with any trigger may be a symptom of vestibular neuritis. Evaluation focuses on determining whether the etiology is peripheral or central. Peripheral etiologies are usually benign. Central etiologies often require urgent treatment. The HINTS (head-impulse, nystagmus, test of skew) examination can help distinguish peripheral from central etiologies. The physical examination includes orthostatic blood pressure measurement, a full cardiac and neurologic examination, assessment for nystagmus, and the Dix-Hallpike maneuver. Laboratory testing and imaging are not required and are usually not helpful. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can be treated with a canalith repositioning procedure (e.g., Epley maneuver). Treatment of Meniere disease includes salt restriction and diuretics. Symptoms of vestibular neuritis are relieved with vestibular suppressant medications and vestibular rehabilitation.

Full reference: Muncie, H. et al. (2017) Dizziness: Approach to Evaluation and Management. American Family Physician. Vol. 95 (no. 3) pp. 154-162.