Dizziness - Seeing a doctor

Do I need to see a doctor?

It is usually best to have an explanation for dizziness. If you have a prolonged episode of dizziness, or recurring episodes of dizziness and are not sure what is causing them, then it is wise to see a doctor. In particular, if you have other symptoms in addition to the dizziness, such as:

  • Headache, especially if it is severe, or a different kind of headache to ones you usually get.
  • Hearing or visual loss.
  • Problems with speech.
  • Weakness of arms or legs.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Collapse, or periods of unconsciousness.
  • Numbness in areas of your body.
  • Chest pain.
  • An abnormally slow or fast pulse.
  • An irregular pulse.
  • Any other symptom that you cannot explain.

If any of these symptoms have come on suddenly, see a doctor immediately.

What tests might I have for dizziness?

A doctor is likely to examine you. Sometimes the doctor can tell you the cause of the dizziness from your symptoms and the result of the examination. In some cases, various tests may be organised to find the cause of the dizziness.

Your doctor will firstly need to ask you some questions about the dizziness. Is it constant or in attacks? Is it the world-is-spinning type of dizziness or a loss of balance, or do you feel faint or light-headed? Do you have other symptoms with it, such as being sick, hearing problems, a ringing in the ear (dizziness), headaches, palpitations, etc? Does it come on in certain situations - for example, when you move your head from one side to the other? Are you taking any medicines?

The doctor will then need to examine you. What this involves will depend on the information gleaned from the answers above, but might include:

  • Taking your temperature.
  • Examining your ear.
  • Examining your eyes and their movements.
  • Checking your pulse and blood pressure.
  • Checking your balance and co-ordination.
  • Looking for any weakness in the muscles of your arms, legs or face.
  • Tests which look for dizziness in certain positions or position changes.

Depending on what has been established from the above, further tests might be relevant. These will differ depending on which diagnosis is suspected, but might include:

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  • Kaski D, Bronstein AM; Making a diagnosis in patients who present with vertigo. BMJ. 2012 Sep 3 345:e5809. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e5809.
  • Post RE, Dickerson LM; Dizziness: a diagnostic approach. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Aug 15 82(4):361-8, 369.
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Author:
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Louise Newson
Document ID:
4779 (v42)
Last Checked:
26 July 2017
Next Review:
25 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.