Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your family doctor or general practitioner will probably be able to diagnose and treat the cause of your dizziness. However, in some cases you may be referred to a specialist such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist or a neurologist.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. If you're scheduled for vestibular testing, your doctor will provide instructions regarding any medications to withhold the night before and what to eat on the day of testing.
  • Be prepared to describe your dizziness in specific terms. When you have an episode of dizziness, do you feel like the room is spinning, or like you are spinning in the room? Do you feel like you might pass out? Your description of these symptoms is crucial to helping your doctor make a diagnosis.
  • Write down any other health conditions or symptoms you have, including any that may seem unrelated to your dizziness. For example, if you have felt depressed or anxious recently, this is important information for your doctor.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. For dizziness, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Is this problem likely temporary or long lasting?
  • Is it possible my symptoms will go away without treatment?
  • What treatment options might help?
  • I have other medical conditions. How can I best handle these conditions together?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow? For example, is it safe for me to drive?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions about your dizziness. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • Is your dizziness continuous, or does it occur in spells or episodes?
  • If your dizziness occurs in episodes, how long do these episodes last?
  • How often do your dizziness episodes occur?
  • When do your dizzy spells seem to happen, and what triggers them?
  • Does your dizziness cause the room to spin or produce a sensation of motion?
  • When you feel dizzy, do you also feel faint or lightheaded?
  • Does your dizziness cause you to lose your balance?
  • Are your symptoms accompanied by a ringing or fullness in your ears (tinnitus) or trouble hearing?
  • Does your vision blur?
  • Is your dizziness made worse by moving your head?
  • What medications, vitamins or supplements are you taking?

Your doctor can narrow down possible causes of dizziness after determining the type of dizziness you're experiencing, reviewing your medical history and current medications, conducting a physical examination, and ordering further testing based on your signs and symptoms.

What you can do in the meantime

If you tend to feel lightheaded when you stand up, take your time making changes in posture. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, which can cause or worsen lightheadedness.

In addition, if you have had episodes of dizziness while driving, arrange for alternate transportation while you're waiting to see your doctor. Ask friends, family or colleagues to help you get to and from work and other activities, or look into public transportation.

If your dizziness causes you to feel like you might fall, take steps to reduce your risk. Keep your home well lit and free of hazards that might cause you to trip. Avoid area rugs and exposed electrical cords. Place furniture where you're unlikely to bump into it, and use nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.

Sep. 06, 2012