An approach to vertigo in general practice

Aust Fam Physician. 2016 Apr;45(4):190-4.


Background: Dizziness is a common and very distressing presentation in general practice. In more than half of these cases, the dizziness is due to vertigo, which is the illusion of movement of the body or its surroundings. It can have central or peripheral causes, and determining the cause can be difficult.

Objective: The aim of this article is to provide a clear framework for approaching patients who present with vertigo. A suggested approach to the assessment of vertigo is outlined.

Discussion: The causes of vertigo may be central (involving the brainstem or cerebellum) or peripheral (involving the inner ear). A careful history and physical examination can distinguish between these causes. The most common causes of vertigo seen in primary care are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular neuronitis (VN) and Ménière's disease. These peripheral causes of vertigo are benign, and treatment involves reassurance and management of symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • General Practice / methods*
  • Humans
  • Labyrinthitis / complications
  • Medical History Taking
  • Meniere Disease / complications
  • Physical Examination
  • Vertigo / diagnosis
  • Vertigo / etiology*
  • Vertigo / therapy*
  • Vestibular Neuronitis / complications