Background: Dizziness is commonly experienced in the community, but little is known about the long-term progression of the condition.
Objective: We aimed to assess over 18 months the outcome of symptoms of dizziness in a sample of patients identified from London general practices.
Method: We followed up at 18 months a cohort of patients who reported symptoms of dizziness with or without anxiety, panic reactions or avoidance of situations that provoked the symptoms. The subjects completed a structured questionnaire both at baseline and at 18 months.
Results: At 18 months, 24% (95% CI = 23.5-34.8%) were more handicapped and 20% (95% CI = 15.2-25.2%) had recurrent dizziness, while 20% (95% CI = 14.9-24.8%) had improved. Patients with significant dizziness were more likely to consult their GP (OR = 14.4, 95% CI = 7.0-29.1) and were more likely to receive treatment (OR = 7.8, 95% CI = 3.2-22.4) or be referred to hospital (OR = 8.4, 95% CI = 3.2-22.4). The independent predictors of handicapping dizziness at 18 months were a history of fainting (OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.2-4.7), vertigo (OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.3-5.0) and avoidance of a situation that provoke dizziness (OR = 4.8, 95% CI = 2.5-9.0).
Conclusion: Four per cent of all patients registered with a GP suffer persistent symptoms of dizziness and at least 3% are severely incapacitated by their symptoms. The presence of vertigo, fainting and avoidance in a person with dizziness is predictive of chronic handicapping dizziness. Further research is required on the progressions of symptoms of dizziness in a sample of GP attenders and those in the community.