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Dr. William J. Larsen, Au.D., FAAA Dr. Cheryl L. Rhodes, Au.D., FAAA
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DIZZINESS
Stedman's Medical Distionary for the Health Professions and Nursing defines dizzness as an "Imprecise term commonly used by patients in an attempt to describe various symptoms such as faintness, vertigo, disequilibrium, or unsteadniness (Stedman's 2005) while the Comprehensive Dictionary of Audiology refers to dizziness as a "general term used to describe various symptoms such as faintness, giddiness, light-headedness or unsteadiness (Stach 1997)
I have been evaluating and treating dizzy patients for over 20 years and I often have patients refer to their dizziness as a feeling of being "swimmy headed, off balance, light headed, vertigo, room spinning, I'm spinning"
Dr. Larsen
​I like to break down dizziness into two different categories: 
Dizziness that is inner ear related
&
Dizziness that is not inner ear related
Dizziness that is inner ear related
Dizziness that is inner ear related often involves vertigo. Vertigo (a symptom, not a disease) is a sensation that the room is spinning around (often referred to as "objective vertigo") or that the patient is spinning around (often referred to as "subjective vertigo"). Vertigo is usually a very violent symptom that often frightens patients when they first experience it and it can be very dibilitating. Vertigo is often, but not always, accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sweating. Vertigo can last for hours or seconds. The most common type of vertigo is known as "Benign Paroxysmal Positioning Vertigo" or BPPV (it's hard to believe, but, this is the laymans term). Dizziness that is inner ear related often also involves imbalance. Many patients who suffer from BPPV also suffer imbalance when walking. BPPV is usually "set off" by head movement in a specific way. Many patients experience this type of dizziness when rolling over in bed or when laying down or sitting up. Unfortunately, there are no medications that cure BPPV. However, when properly evaluated (as BPPV can occur in one or more of 12 different locations in the inner ear), the treatment for BPPV is almost always 100% successfull. There is simply no good reason for anyone to suffer from BPPV. There are other forms of inner ear dizziness, but BPPV, is by far, the most common form.
Dizziness that is NOT inner ear related
Dizziness that is not inner ear related NEVER involves vertigo. The most common form of this type of dizziness is probably orthostatic hypotension - a change in body position that significantly changes blood pressure. This is one reason that many primary care physicians are now testing blood pressure on their patients in three different body positions - laying, sitting and standing.
References
​Stedman's medical dictionary for the health professions and nursing: llustrated.-5th edition, (p.427); Stach, B. (1997). Comptrehensive Distionary of Audiology (p.65). William & Wilkins; Baltimore, MD