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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Dizziness Not Always Child's Play

Stop the Spinning
WebMD Feature

Sept. 17, 2001 -- At first, Diane Tucker just felt a little dizzy once in a while. Then the spells got worse.

"It would come on out of the clear blue," Tucker tells WebMD. "I remember being at a movie when I just started feeling nauseous. My husband had to carry me home. There was no way I could walk. It was like having the spins from drinking too much, but it wouldn't stop. The spells went on for over a year -- it would last for a few hours and then it would be gone. "

During one of these spells, Tucker was sent to an emergency room where doctors -- fearing she had eaten contaminated oysters -- ordered her stomach pumped. After seeing four doctors, all she was told was that she probably had "some kind of allergic reaction."

Fortunately for Tucker, her job is managing records for a medical clinic. One record that crossed her desk described a young woman with symptoms exactly like hers. She called the doctor -- a neuro-otologist, a specialist in disorders of the brain and ear. Tests showed she had Meniere's disease.

"It was such a relief to get a diagnosis," Tucker says. "I was wondering if I had a brain tumor, or if I was just crazy. They put me on a diuretic and an antihistamine, and that controlled it for a year. Finally, my doctor talked me into surgery because I couldn't hear out of that ear anyway."

The recovery was difficult, says Tucker. "You come out of that surgery and you are spinning again just like you are having one of those reactions. You have to learn how to walk again, because your balance is totally off."

If You're Dizzy, See a Doctor

Relatively few dizzy people will have to go through an ordeal like Tucker's, but dizziness, a very common complaint, can be serious. If you're experiencing unexplained dizziness, a trip to the doctor is a good idea, says neurologist Martin Allen Samuels, MD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the neurology department at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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