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Bio Statement Vestibular balance disorders affect in excess of two million people every year, and feature in the top ten complaints that lead patients to visit their doctor.

Doctors need to be cautious when patients are describing their symptoms, as often-used terms such as "dizziness", "vertigo", and "motion sickness" can be caused by conditions other than balance problems. Instead, doctors try to encourage patients to describe their sensations in more specific terms. Below are common symptoms described by patients, and what a primary care physician would consider the sensations to be of those symptoms.


In order to satisfy the symptom of "dizziness", physicians would be interested in sensations that are similar to feeling drunk, including being unsteady, woozy, or giddy. There may not be sensations of spinning, but a feeling of imbalance. Dizziness is typically not caused by inner ear disorders, so may point to a different condition which needs to be investigated.


The sensations associated with vertigo are those such as spinning, turning, falling, whirling, even simply moving straight ahead. The spinning sensations may refer to either the subject spinning or the actual environment. All such sensations of movement are hallucinations and usually suggest an inner ear or vestibular system disorder.


A physician would consider "lightheadness" to involve one or more symptoms such as tunnel vision, feelings of fainting, sweating, shortness of breath, numbness, or feeling cold. Lightheadness can be caused by the side effects of medication, or heart or blood vessel problems.

Motion Sickness

Common motion sickness symptoms include headache, sweating, nausea, and spinning. Rather than being a symptom of a condition or disease, motion sickness is quite a normal response to experiencing motion for which you have not yet adapted. Some people's threshold for suffering motion sickness is much lower than others, and can be caused by relatively stable journeys by road, air, or sea.


If you are feeling any of the sensations described above, visit your doctor. There is also a new website - see below - designed for sufferers of these conditions to share symptoms and coping strategies, and there is a recommended resource which has helped many people overcome dizziness and similar unpleasant disorders.

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