This site is intended for healthcare professionals

Go to /sign-in page

You can view 5 more pages before signing in

Taking a history from a patient with dizziness

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

  • the following points are important when taking a history from a patient with dizziness since dizziness is a highly subjective symptom
    • different patients may describe dizziness in different ways
    • objective questions must attempt to differentiate vertigo from other forms of dizziness
    • clues as to the different types of dizziness should be looked for in the history (1)
      • vertigo
        • do you get the feeling of rotation?
        • does the surroundings spin around?
        • is there a tendency to fall to one side?
      • dysequilibrium
        • are you having a feeling of unsteadiness?
      • presyncope
        • do you feel faintish?
      • light headedness
        • do you feel lightheaded?
  • onset and duration of the symptoms: (2)
    • provide information concerning the likely pathological processes
      • causes of episode lasting only a few seconds include:
        • peripheral cause like
          • unilateral loss of vestibular function, acute vestibular neuronitis, Meniere's disease
      • causes of episodes lasting for several seconds to a few minutes include:
        • benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, perilymphatic fistula
      • causes of episodes lasting for several minutes to one hour include:
        • transient ischemic attack, perilymphatic fistula
      • causes of episodes lasting for several hours include
        • Meniere's disease, perilymphatic fistula, migraine, acoustic neuroma
      • causes of episodes lasting for days include
        • early acute vestibular neuronitis, CVA, migraine, multiple sclerosis
  • precipitating factors (2)
    • causes precipitating spontaneous episodes are
      • acute vestibular neuronitis; cerebrovascular disease, Meniere's disease, migraine, multiple sclerosis
    • changes in position of the head
      • acute labyrinthitis, benign positional paroxysmal vertigo, perilymphatic fistula, cerebellopontine angle tumour, multiple sclerosis
    • standing up - suggesting of postural hypotension
  • associated symptoms, including:
    • deafness
    • tinnitus
    • otalgia
    • a feeling of fullness in the ear
    • discharge from the ear
    • neurological symptoms
  • any other medical problems:
    • vascular disease
    • multiple sclerosis
    • drug history, especially ototoxic drugs
    • cardiac disease, especially arrhythmias


  1. J Kanagalingam et al. Vertigo, BMJ, Mar 2005; 330:523
  2. Ronald H. Labuguen Initial Evaluation of Vertigo. American Family Physician ,Vol. 73/No. 2 (January 15, 2006)

Related pages

Create an account to add page annotations

Annotations allow you to add information to this page that would be handy to have on hand during a consultation. E.g. a website or number. This information will always show when you visit this page.

The content herein is provided for informational purposes and does not replace the need to apply professional clinical judgement when diagnosing or treating any medical condition. A licensed medical practitioner should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.


Copyright 2024 Oxbridge Solutions Limited, a subsidiary of OmniaMed Communications Limited. All rights reserved. Any distribution or duplication of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited. Oxbridge Solutions receives funding from advertising but maintains editorial independence.