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Understanding Lightheadedness


Lightheadedness or commonly called Dizziness is a common symptom that’s not usually a sign of anything serious, but should be investigated by a doctor. The term "dizziness" means different things to different people – some use it to describe feeling lightheaded or off balance, while others use it to describe a feeling that their surroundings are spinning. Because the symptom is quite vague and can be caused by a wide range of things, it may not always be easy to identify the underlying cause of dizziness.

Most people visiting their doctor because of dizziness will first be asked about their symptoms and medications and then be given a physical examination. During this exam, your doctor will check how you walk and maintain your balance and how the major nerves of your central nervous system are working.

You may also need a hearing test and balance tests, including:

  • Eye movement testing. Your doctor may watch the path of your eyes when you track a moving object. And you may be given an eye motion test in which water or air are placed in your ear canal.

  • Head movement testing. If your doctor suspects your vertigo is caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, he or she may do a simple head movement test called the Dix-Hallpike maneuver to verify the diagnosis.

  • Posturography. This test tells your doctor which parts of the balance system you rely on the most and which parts may be giving you problems. You stand in your bare feet on a platform and try to keep your balance under various conditions.

  • Rotary chair testing. During this test you sit in a computer-controlled chair that moves very slowly in a full circle. At faster speeds, it moves back and forth in a very small arc.

If you seek treatment, your neurologist will base it on the cause of your condition and your symptoms. It may include medications and balance exercises. Even if no cause is found or if your dizziness persists, prescription drugs and other treatments may make your symptoms more manageable. If you are suffering from lightheadedness or dizziness that are recurrent or persistent you should go and see a doctor or neurologist.

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