North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat

  • Cary, NC 919-859-6771
  • Roxboro, NC 336-597-2826
  • Chapel Hill, NC 919-942-7278
  • South Durham, NC 919-287-3443
  • North Durham, NC 919-595-2000

Hearing and Balance Disorders

Discussion of Dizziness

Dizziness is a symptom not a disease. It may be defined as a sensation of unsteadiness, imbalance, or disorientation in relation to an individual's surroundings. The symptom of dizziness may vary widely from person to person and be caused by many difference diseases. It varies from a mild unsteadiness to a severe whirling sensation known as vertigo. As there is little representation of the balance system in the conscious mind, it is not unusual for it to be difficult for the patient to describe his symptom of dizziness to the physician. In addition, because the symptom of dizziness varies so widely from patient to patient and may be caused by many different diseases, the physician commonly requires testing to be able to provide the patient with some knowledge about the cause of his dizziness. Dizziness may or may not be accompanied by a hearing impairment.

There are many types of dizziness.  Sensations of unsteadiness, imbalance or disorientation in relationship to one's surroundings may result from disturbances in the ear, neck, muscles and joints, the eyes, the nervous system connections of these structures, or a combination of any of the above.  Dizziness may appear as a whirling or spinning sensation (vertigo), unsteadiness, or giddiness and lightheadedness. It may be constant, but is more often intermittent, and is frequently aggravated by head motion or sudden positional changes, nausea and vomiting may occur, but one does not lose consciousness as a result of inner ear dizziness.  Dizziness may be caused by any disturbance in the inner ear, the balance nerve or its central connections. This can be due to a disturbance in circulation, fluid pressure or metabolism, infections, neuritis, drugs, injury, or growths.

At times an extensive evaluation is required to determine the cause of dizziness. The tests necessary are determined at the time of examination and may include detailed hearing and balance tests, x-rays, and blood tests. A general physical examination and neurological tests may be advised.  Treatment of dizziness depends upon the cause of the dizziness.  Dizziness may or may not be associated with hearing loss. In most instances the distressing symptoms of dizziness can be greatly benefited or eliminated by medical or surgical management.