Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm telling you, they swoon for me

Anduin asks:

I've been getting dizzy. It feels like I'm swooning and it comes on suddenly, sometimes lasting all day. Could this be vertigo? I've also read it could be an ear infection. How would I know?

A: One of the first things we ENTs are taught is to get away from the term "dizzy." Trouble is, it means different things to different people. The question we ask is, "Can you describe what you feel without using the word dizzy?"

You've used the word "swooning," which suggests you feel as though you might faint. Some folks would call this "lightheadedness." Many things may cause this sensation; the most common causes are probably low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and heart rhythm problems. Other possibilities include drug side effect, allergy, or hormonal problems.

Vertigo is a symptom in which the patient feels as though she is moving when she isn't. Most commonly, vertigo refers to a spinning sensation, but some folks use it to refer to a sense of falling, too. A seasick feeling (mal debarquement) is something else entirely.

Vertigo most commonly indicates an ear problem, but not always. Certain central nervous system conditions can cause vertigo, so it is important to keep that in mind when evaluating the patient.

How can you tell if it's an ear problem? There's no easy answer to that. If other ear symptoms (pain, ringing, hearing loss, pressure) are present, it might be an ear problem. Many common problems (such as benign positional vertigo) do not have other ear symptoms, however.

If you look back at the laundry list of possibilities in that second paragraph, I think you'll be able to predict what comes next. You need to run this by your doctor, since some of these conditions (heart rhythm problems, for example) are potentially serious.



At 10:15 PM, Blogger Anduin said...

Thanks for the very long list of possibilities. Looks like it's time to make an appointment. Some of these sound pretty serious so I'd better get on it.

I appreciate your input.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

You're welcome, AA. Keep me posted.


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