Objective: Dizziness is a common yet difficult symptom to manage in patients seeking medical care. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of participants with dizziness engaging the medical community for help.
Patients: Five hundred twenty one participants were recruited from the Vestibular Disorder Association (VEDA) website using the association's list-serve, social media (Facebook), and fliers distributed through healthcare providers.
Main outcome measure: Data related to diagnostics, treatment, quality of life, and healthcare costs as developed by a task force of selected vestibular specialists.
Results: Meniere's disease, vestibular migraine, and vestibular neuritis/labyrinthitis were the top three self-reported diagnoses that caused dizziness. Over 40% of participants sought medical care within 1 week of onset (acute stage) yet greater than 50% required 5 months or longer to reach a diagnosis. Only 20% of the participants felt their diagnosis was accurate and timely. Nearly 75% of participants reported having magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Roughly 55% reported a fall as a result of their dizziness. Participants reported spending more money on their healthcare than did their third party payers.
Conclusion: Our data show a large variability in when the symptom of dizziness was reported and when a diagnosis was made, with overall long diagnosis times and frequent referrals to multiple specialists. Additionally, many different healthcare providers were identified as diagnosing and treating dizziness yet one-third of participants were frustrated with being misdiagnosed or misdirected. Frequent MRIs despite their inaccuracy at diagnosing vestibular disorders, and overuse of canalith repositioning maneuvers, suggest diagnostic inefficiency.