Before treatment can begin the cause of the dizziness symptoms must first be identified. By being able to more accurately describe what is meant by dizziness you can assist your provider in discovering the source of your symptoms.
To better describe dizziness symptoms some understanding of what dizziness means is required. The term dizziness is broad and encompasses a multitude of sensations of an altered state of being including: lightheadedness, vertigo, disorientation, imbalance, blurred vision, or even motion intolerance. Below are some of the more common dizziness sensations described with a basic definition for each.
- Vertigo – A false sensation of self or environmental motion. Example: The room is spinning or I feel like I am spinning or moving.
- Lightheaded – An altered state of being where one feels as if they may pass out or lose consciousness.
- Imbalance – Unsteadiness while walking. i.e. When I am walking I feel unsteady but I am fine while sitting or lying down.
- Disorientation – Loss of orientation to ones surroundings or confusion.
- Motion Intolerance – Either physical (self) or visual (environmental) motion produces symptoms of nausea or another dizziness sensation.
These are some of the more common dizziness sensations but this does not encompass all possible dizziness sensations. The type of dizziness you are experiencing can be helpful to your provider but this is not all that is required to fully understand the cause of dizziness.
Timing, Triggers and Onset
It is essential to understand how long the symptoms last if they present in episodes or if the dizziness sensation is constant. If the dizziness comes in episodes it is helpful to know how long the episodes last.
Whether the symptoms are constant, or if they present in an episodes, it is also helpful to know when the symptoms first began and when was the last time you experienced the symptom(s).
Example: “I feel a sensation of the vertigo (room spinning) that lasts for around 30-45 seconds in duration. I first experienced this sensation two months ago and I also felt this earlier this morning.”
Spontaneous or Provoked?
If the dizziness comes in episodes, are they spontaneous without obvious triggers, or do certain physical or visual movements provoke an episode. Other possible triggers could include: certain foods or drinks, changes in weather, or even hormonal change. Different conditions can have unique triggers that can cause an episode of dizziness and as such identifying any possible triggers for the episodes can be helpful.
It is important to note that some conditions may not have anything that makes the symptoms better or worse. If the dizziness comes in episodes try to identify if there are any lingering symptoms in between the episodes.
Example: “I feel a sensation of the vertigo (room spinning) that lasts for around 30-45 seconds in duration and I most often experience this sensation when I lay down in bed, roll over in bed, or tilt by head backward or forward. In between these episodes, I do not experience any lingering symptoms of dizziness or imbalance. These symptoms began two months ago and the last time I experienced this was this morning when rolling over in bed. “
You can see with the above examples how much more specific, useful information was obtained by describing the dizziness symptom type, timing, triggers, and onset. This creates a much more detailed picture of what is meant by dizziness which allows for better directed assessment and treatment.
If you are experiencing episodic dizziness symptoms try to identify if there are any other symptoms that occur before, after, or during an episode of dizziness. If your dizziness is constant, try to identify if there were any other symptoms that began around the time of onset of the dizziness.
Some commonly associated symptoms include:
- Change in hearing
- Noises in ones ears
- Pressure or fullness in ear(s)
- Ear pain
- Sensitivity to lights or sounds
- Heart racing
It may be difficult to pay attention to any associated symptoms because the dizziness makes you feel terrible but this can be essential in determining the cause of symptoms as some causes for dizziness have symptom overlap.
Example: “I have experienced multiple episodes of spontaneous vertigo that lasted for several hours in duration. With each of these episodes I noticed decreased hearing, a roaring noise, and pressure in my right ear. Following the episode I did not have any lingering dizziness or imbalance but my hearing in my right ear is no longer the same as my left ear. This initially started 3 months ago. My last episode was 3 days ago.”
What If I Have Multiple Symptoms?
Lastly, if you have had multiple episodes of dizziness It is important to note if all of the episodes have been the similar or were/are some different than others. It is possible to have more than one cause for dizziness, which may result in different symptoms with their own unique features.
If you have more than one dizziness symptom try to describe each symptom utilizing the above format including: symptom type, timing, triggers, onset, and associated symptoms.
What Can I Do?
Specifically describing dizziness symptoms including: dizziness type, timing, triggers, onset, and associated symptoms will assist your healthcare provider in determining the cause of the dizziness and in turn the best means of treatment.