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Evaluation of dizziness in children and adolescents

Theresa Walls, MD, MPH
Stephen J Teach, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Douglas R Nordli, Jr, MD
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Glenn C Isaacson, MD, FAAP
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic will discuss the evaluation of dizziness in pediatric patients. The evaluation and causes of syncope in children and adolescents are discussed separately. (See "Emergency evaluation of syncope in children and adolescents" and "Causes of syncope in children and adolescents".)


Although a common pediatric complaint in ambulatory settings, dizziness is a vague term that can describe many conditions, including lightheadedness (presyncope), anxiety, intoxication, ataxia, visual disturbance, hyperventilation, weakness, depression, and true vertigo. Young children may not be able to describe their symptoms well, making their evaluation challenging. However, a thorough history and physical examination can establish a diagnosis in most cases.


Dizziness describes a disturbed sense of relationship to space [1]. It is a chief complaint commonly used to describe many conditions.

True vertigo and pseudovertigo provide further categorization of dizziness:

True vertigo refers to the perception that the patient is rotating relative to the environment (subjective vertigo) or that the environment is rotating relative to the patient (objective vertigo) [2]. It results from a disturbance somewhere in the vestibular system, which has both peripheral and central nervous system components.

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 04, 2017.
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