[Vertigo and dizziness: the neurologist's perspective]

M Strupp
Der Ophthalmologe: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Ophthalmologischen Gesellschaft 2013, 110 (1): 7-15
The spectrum of diagnoses of patients with dizziness as the leading symptom who consult a neurologist does not differ greatly from the spectrum of those who consult ear nose and throat (ENT) specialists or general practitioners (GP). The most frequent forms are benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV), phobic postural vertigo, central vertigo disorders, Menière's disease, vestibular neuritis and bilateral vestibulopathy. However, the first and most important question that is posed to neurologists is whether it is a central or peripheral syndrome. In more than 90 % of cases this differentiation is possible by taking the patient history (asking about the type of vertigo, the duration, triggers and accompanying symptoms) and conducting a physical examination of the patient. In the case of acute vertigo disorders in particular, a five-step procedure has proved to be helpful: the cover test to look for skew deviation as the central sign and component of the ocular tilt reaction, an examination with and without Frenzel's goggles to differentiate between peripheral vestibular spontaneous nystagmus and central fixation nystagmus, an examination of smooth pursuit and gaze-holding function and finally the head-impulse test to look for a deficit in the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). Considerable advances have been made in the treatment of vertigo disorders in the last 10 years, e.g., cortisone for the treatment of acute vestibular neuritis, betahistine as a high-dosage, long-term treatment for Menière's disease, carbamazepine to treat vestibular paroxysmia and aminopyridine for downbeat nystagmus and episodic ataxia type 2.

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