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Finding Answers: A Guide for People with Chronic Dizziness

DISCLAIMER: This is an educational site for patients, caregivers, and medical providers. This information was accurate as of the date presented. Consult local medical authority or your healthcare provider for specific advice and referrals.

A Guide for People with Chronic Dizziness

Dizziness is when you feel faint, woozy, off-balance, spinning or light-headed, like you are about to fall over. Chronic dizziness is when you feel these things long term. It often begins as a single episode, but it doesn't go away completely. It can become more frequent, severe, and troublesome.

If you have had chronic dizziness for more than three months, talk with your health care provider. Your problem may be caused by one of the following:

  • Medications
  • Heart disease or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, unstable blood pressure, or thyroid disease
  • Conditions involving the brain
  • Nerve damage in the legs or spine

It is possible that your doctor has already checked for these problems. If they are not the cause, you may be referred for additional testing. Chronic dizziness can be hard to figure out. The best place to start is with a thorough check of your hearing and the inner ear or parts of your ear that affect your balance. This can be done by an audiologist* and otolaryngologist*, also called an ENT. If the testing points to a problem in the inner ear, the ENT may treat you or refer you to a neurotologist* to see if you would benefit from a procedure or surgery. If the testing does not point to a problem in the inner ear, you may need to see a different specialist, such as one of these:

  • Neurologist.* This specialist treats problems with the brain, nerves, or spinal cord.
  • Neuro-ophthalmologist.* This specialist examines the connections among vision, balance, and the brain.
  • Vestibular rehabilitation specialist.* This specialist is a physical and occupational therapist who focuses on improving the symptoms of dizziness and balance problems.

Testing may show that you have a condition called Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness (3PD) or vestibular (inner ear) migraine. Both cause chronic dizziness and are treatable with a combination of medications and therapy.


*See pronunciation guide.

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