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Dizziness: Common Causes and Symptoms Explained

May 20th, 2024 | 4 min. read

By Mark Nichols, MD

dizzy causes symptoms and testing

Dizziness is a common complaint, and it can be a disorienting and sometimes frightening experience. It's important to understand that "dizziness" is a broad term, often encompassing a range of sensations like lightheadedness, unsteadiness, vertigo (a spinning sensation), or a feeling of being off-balance. If you're experiencing dizziness, you're not alone – millions of people seek medical attention for this issue each year.

What Causes Dizziness?

Dizziness can stem from various underlying conditions, and it's not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause without professional evaluation. Here's a look at some of the most common culprits:

  • Inner Ear Problems: The inner ear plays a crucial role in maintaining balance. Issues like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere's disease, and vestibular neuritis can all trigger dizziness.

  • Circulatory Issues: Dizziness can sometimes be a sign of poor blood circulation to the brain. Conditions like low blood pressure, dehydration, and certain heart conditions can contribute to this.

  • Neurological Conditions: In rare cases, dizziness can be a symptom of more serious neurological conditions like migraines, multiple sclerosis, or even strokes.

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as those for blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, can have dizziness as a side effect.

  • Anxiety and Stress: Emotional factors like anxiety and stress can also lead to feelings of dizziness.

Ready to Regain Your Balance? Contact Us Today!

If dizziness is disrupting your life, it's time to take action. Our team of expert ENT specialists at Houston ENT & Allergy is here to help you find the root cause and provide the relief you need. With our comprehensive diagnostic tests and personalized treatment plans, we’ll work with you to restore your balance and improve your quality of life.

Don't let dizziness hold you back. Schedule your consultation today!



Types of Dizziness

Let's break down the different types of dizziness to better understand what you might be experiencing:

  1. Vertigo: This is a spinning sensation, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. It can feel like the room is spinning around you or like you are spinning yourself. Vertigo is often caused by problems in the inner ear.

  2. Lightheadedness: This is a feeling of faintness or unsteadiness. You may feel like you're about to pass out, but you don't actually lose consciousness. Lightheadedness can be caused by a variety of factors, including dehydration, low blood pressure, and certain medications.

  3. Disequilibrium: This is a feeling of being off-balance or unsteady on your feet. You may feel like you're going to fall, even if you're not actually in danger of falling. Disequilibrium can be caused by problems in the inner ear, the brain, or the nerves that connect them.

Symptoms Associated with Dizziness

Dizziness often comes with additional symptoms, which can provide clues about the underlying cause:

  • Nausea and Vomiting: These are common with vertigo.

  • Hearing Loss or Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears can accompany some inner ear conditions.

  • Visual Disturbances: Blurred vision or seeing double can occur.

  • Headache: Especially if migraines are a factor.

  • Sweating or Palpitations: These may signal anxiety or heart-related issues.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While occasional dizziness is usually not a cause for major concern, there are situations where it's important to consult a doctor:

  • Severe or Persistent Dizziness: If the dizziness is severe, doesn't go away, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.

  • New or Sudden Onset: Dizziness that appears suddenly or is unlike anything you've experienced before warrants evaluation.

  • Injury or Trauma: If dizziness follows a head injury, it's crucial to get checked out.

  • Additional Symptoms: The presence of neurological symptoms like weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking should not be ignored.

How Your Houston ENT & Allergy Specialists Can Help

Our team of ENT specialists is well-equipped to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of dizziness. We'll begin with a thorough evaluation, including:

  • Medical History: We'll ask detailed questions about your symptoms, any existing medical conditions, and medications you're taking.

  • Physical Exam: We'll perform a physical examination, focusing on your ears, nose, and throat, as well as checking your balance and coordination.

  • Diagnostic Tests: Depending on the suspected cause, we may order additional tests, such as hearing tests, balance tests, imaging studies (like MRI or CT scans), or blood tests.

Diagnostic Dizziness Testing: A Deeper Dive

To pinpoint the exact cause of your dizziness, our ENT specialists may recommend one or more of the following specialized tests:

  1. Videonystagmography (VNG):

  • What it is: VNG is a series of tests that measure eye movements using special goggles. It assesses how well your eyes and inner ear work together to maintain balance.

  • How it's done: You'll wear goggles with infrared cameras while performing various tasks, such as tracking a moving target or changing head positions. The cameras record your eye movements, which can reveal abnormalities in the vestibular system (the balance system in your inner ear).
  1. Rotary Chair Testing:

  • What it is: This test involves sitting in a computerized chair that rotates slowly. It measures your eye movements and helps assess the function of your vestibular system.

  • How it's done: You'll be seated in the chair while wearing goggles similar to those used in VNG. The chair will rotate at different speeds and directions, and your eye movements will be recorded. This test helps identify specific types of inner ear problems.
  1. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR):

  • What it is: ABR measures the electrical activity in the brainstem in response to sound. It helps assess the function of the auditory nerve and brainstem pathways.

  • How it's done: Electrodes are placed on your scalp and earlobes. You'll listen to a series of clicks or tones through headphones, and the electrodes will record the electrical responses of your brain.
  1. Electrocochleography (ECoG):

  • What it is: ECoG is a test that measures the electrical responses of the cochlea (the hearing organ in the inner ear) to sound.

  • How it's done: A small electrode is placed in the ear canal near the eardrum. You'll listen to a series of clicks or tones, and the electrode will record the electrical responses of the cochlea.
  1. Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (VEMP):

  • What it is: VEMP measures the muscle responses in your neck and eyes in response to sound. It helps assess the function of the saccule and utricle, two parts of the vestibular system.

  • How it's done: Electrodes are placed on your neck and forehead. You'll listen to a series of loud clicks or tones, and the electrodes will record the muscle responses.

Choosing the Right Dizziness Test

Our ENT specialists will determine which tests are most appropriate based on your specific symptoms and medical history. These tests are painless and non-invasive, and they can provide valuable information to guide your treatment.

Remember, dizziness doesn't have to be a mystery. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can regain your balance and enjoy a more active and fulfilling life. Don't hesitate to contact our Houston ENT & Allergy team for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized care.

Mark Nichols, MD

Mark Lynn Nichols, M.D., received his Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in Pharmacy in 1983, prior to his entering the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, where he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine with Highest Honors. Following his Internship in General Surgery, and Residency in Otolaryngology at UTMB, Dr. Nichols did a Fellowship in Otology-Neurotology at the Ear Research Foundation, in Sarasota, Florida. He is a member of several professional associations, and is a Diplomat of the American Board of Otolaryngology.