Dizziness Not Always Child's Play
Stop the Spinning
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
"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
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
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
"Dizziness is a very rich problem because it contains
pieces of internal medicine, a lot of neurology, a lot of otolaryngology [ear,
nose, and throat medicine], and a lot of psychiatry," Samuels tells WebMD.
You have to know a fair amount of medicine to be a 'dizzy' doctor, [so some]
primary care doctors get anxious. They order too many tests ... and patients
"You should tell your primary care doctor what the
sensation is like," says Samuels. "Dizziness means something different
to every person -- it has no specific medical meaning, and different cultures
have different words to refer to it."
Thoroughly describing your symptoms can really help your
primary care doctor get to the root of the problem. "He or she should take
a careful history, do a brief examination, and make the proper referral" to
a specialist, if necessary.