Approach to the dizzy patient.
As dizziness can be caused by so many different pathophysiological mechanisms, it is crucial to determine the type of dizziness before proceeding with the diagnostic evaluation. Vertigo, defined as an illusion of movement, is an important subtype of dizziness that indicates a lesion somewhere within the vestibular system. Probably the most useful feature for differentiating between peripheral and central causes of vertigo is the associated symptoms. Vertigo of peripheral origin is typically associated with auditory symptoms such as hearing loss and tinnitus, while vertigo of central origin is nearly always associated with neurological symptoms such as diplopia, weakness, numbness and ataxia. Each of the common causes of vertigo has a characteristic clinical profile that should suggest a likely diagnosis after the history and examination are complete. Probably the most important treatment breakthrough is the positional manoeuvre that reliably cures benign positional vertigo (see Chapter 6). The treatment strategy for an acute peripheral vestibular lesion has evolved over the past few years. Patients are encouraged to return to normal physical activity as rapidly as possible. Repeated head, eye and body movements (vestibular rehabilitation) help the brain to recalibrate the relationship between visual, proprioceptive and vestibular signals (Chapter 9).