The puzzle of mystery dizziness solved

A new study has found that chronic dizziness, may have a variety of causes including anxiety disorders and brain injury.

Although Vertigo, a feeling of turning or whirling is well recognized and usually involves inner ear problems, unexplained dizziness has baffled doctors for years.

Researcher Dr. Jeffrey Staab of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and his colleagues, say patients with the condition have chronic nonspecific dizziness, subjective imbalance and hypersensitivity to motion stimuli, which are exacerbated in complex visual environments such as walking in a busy store or driving in the rain.

For the study the researchers tracked 345 men and women age 15 to 89 who had dizziness for three months or longer due to unknown causes.

The participants were subjected to multiple examinations with specialists until definitive diagnoses were made.

The study results provide some insight into the mechanisms that may precipitate and perpetuate chronic dizziness say the researchers.

The authors say that taking a clinical history often revealed diagnostic clues; for example:

  • those with migraines often had nausea or vomiting
  • anxiety disorders were associated with fear and worry
  • those with autonomic nervous system disorders tended to become dizzy when they exerted themselves.

Ultimately almost 60 per cent of the participants were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and almost 40 per cent were diagnosed with a central nervous system condition.

It was found that two-thirds of patients had medical conditions associated with the onset of dizziness, whereas one-third had anxiety disorders as the initial cause.

Migraines were diagnosed as a source of dizziness in about 17 per cent of the cases, and many of the people with migraines also had clinically significant anxiety.

Traumatic brain injury accounted for 15 per cent of the cases, and dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system was diagnosed in seven per cent.

The study is published in the February issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

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