Objective: To evaluate the causes of dizziness in elderly men.
Design: A descriptive study involving the clinical and laboratory features of elderly men with dizziness.
Setting: A university-affiliated Veterans Affairs medical center.
Patients: One hundred seventeen consecutive men more than 50 years of age attending a general neurology clinic with the chief complaint of dizziness.
Results: The median duration of dizziness at first office visit was 45 weeks. Forty-nine percent of patients had more than one diagnosis that contributed to their dizziness. Dysfunctions of the peripheral vestibular system were found in 71% and were the principal causes in 56%. Benign positional vertigo was present in 34%. Disorders of the visual system were found in 26% but were the major cause in only 1%. Diagnoses involving the proprioceptive system were present in 17% and were the principal cause in 7%. Structural lesions of the brainstem or cerebellum or metabolic disorders that affected normal brainstem function were identified in 59% and were the major diagnoses in 22%. A psychophysiologic diagnosis was made in 6% but was the major diagnosis in only 3%. At the 6-months follow-up, 55% of patients improved, 34% were unchanged, 4% worsened, and 7% were lost to follow-up.
Conclusions: Contrary to reports in the literature, dizziness in the elderly is more persistent, has more causes, is less often due to a psychophysiologic cause, and seems to be more incapacitating than dizziness in younger patients.