Dizziness and vertigo are common, however, the cause often remains unexplained. The percentage of vertigo of vestibular origin in individuals with unselected dizziness has not been well examined, and its underestimation may lead to diagnostic bias in primary care. The purpose of this study was to reassess the burden of dizziness in the community and to quantify the contribution of vertigo of vestibular origin.
A nationally representative sample of 4869 adults living in Germany was screened for moderate or severe dizziness, and 1003 individuals with dizziness underwent validated neurotologic interviews to differentiate vestibular vertigo from nonvestibular dizziness according to explicit diagnostic criteria.
Dizziness/vertigo had a prevalence of 22.9% in the last 12 months and an incidence (first episode of dizziness/vertigo) of 3.1%. For vestibular vertigo, the prevalence was 4.8% and the incidence was 1.4%. A medical consultation because of incident dizziness/vertigo was reported by 1.8% of unselected adults who consulted a physician in the last 12 months for incident dizziness/vertigo (0.9% for vestibular vertigo). Compared with nonvestibular dizziness, vestibular vertigo was more frequently followed by medical consultation (70% vs 54%; P < .001), sick leave (41% vs 15%; P < .001), interruption of daily activities (40% vs 12%; P < .001), and avoidance of leaving the house (19% vs 10%; P = .001). However, more than half of the participants with vestibular vertigo reported nonvestibular diagnoses. Age- and sex-adjusted health-related quality of life was lower in individuals with dizziness and vertigo compared with dizziness-free control subjects.
The occurrence of dizziness and vertigo is frequent and associated with a considerable personal and health care burden. Vestibular vertigo accounts for a considerable percentage of this burden, which suggests that diagnosis and treatment of frequent vestibular conditions are important issues in primary care.