A sense of balance is maintained by complex interactions among the brain, inner ear, eyes, and joint and muscle receptors. If a problem occurs in any one of these systems, dizziness or vertigo may result.

People may describe a balance problem by saying that they feel dizzy, spinning, lightheaded, or unsteady. Such symptoms may also include nausea/vomiting, ringing in the ears, ear pressure and hearing loss. To facilitate diagnosis, it is important for the patient to exactly describe their symptoms as carefully as possible. Dizziness is most commonly related to disturbances involving the inner ear. However, dizziness and vertigo can also result from problems involving the brain and brainstem/cerebellum.

A complete medical history will help in the diagnosis of vertigo or dizziness. Laboratory tests may be pursued that can further determine the etiologies of dizziness. Such tests include CAT scan/MRI scan of the head and ultrasound studies/MR angiography to evaluate the blood supply to the brain. ENT evaluation may be indicated if an inner ear origin is suspected.

Treatment varies widely depending on origin of the dizziness or vertigo. Some cases of inner ear dysfunction can be treated easily with physical maneuvers and/or medications. Treatment of neurologic origin vertigo will depend on exact diagnosis.