Giddiness isn’t always vertigo

I often get called to see patients at home with vertigo (vertigo is a spinning sensation or feeling unbalanced). They’re too giddy to even stand, and so can’t visit the clinic. Most of the time this is usually harmless and gets better with some medications and rest.

Recently, I saw a 60+ year old patient who complained of giddiness and vomiting. He has had previous episodes of giddiness that the doctor diagnosed as vertigo. When I examined him, he was sweaty and his blood pressure was low. He recalled being breathless for the last 2 weeks after suffering from a bout of flu.

Turns out he had a heart attack. He was sent to the hospital and underwent heart surgery in a matter of hours. The give-away was the low blood pressure that should not happen with vertigo. Apart from vertigo, other causes of giddiness that may be potentially serious:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart failure/ Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Migraines


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