Solving the dizziness puzzle

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 11th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Shake your head back and forth about twenty times. Then open your eyes. Feel a little woozy? Having problems focusing? That’s how some people with unexplained, chronic dizziness feel… a debilitating condition that frustrates patients and baffles doctors.

A new study identifies two health problems that may provide the missing pieces to the dizziness puzzle.

University of Pennsylvania researchers report that neurological problems… like migraines… and psychiatric problems… like anxiety… may play roles in chronic dizziness. Some patients with the condition experience either neurological or psychiatric problems, but most have both. And each problem makes the other worse.

During the six-year study, researchers evaluated three-hundred-forty-five men and women, ages fifteen to eighty-nine, who complained of chronic dizziness for three months or more and sought help at the university’s Balance Center.

Researchers evaluated the patients for balance and asked if they had had medical problems like ear infections, migraines, concussions or brain injuries. They also asked if they had anxiety problems.

The findings linked both medical and psychiatric conditions with chronic dizziness. Two-thirds of the patients had medical problems that first caused their dizziness. One-third had a psychological event that brought on the dizziness. And some patients had a medical problem that developed into a psychiatric problem.

So what does this mean? Researchers suggest chronic dizziness is not the result of medical or psychiatric problems. Instead, it usually involves both and began as a medical problem. They also suggest screening patients with chronic dizziness for headaches, brain injuries and simple anxiety.