, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 161-168
Date: 30 Jan 2011

Prevalence and complications of orthostatic dizziness in the general population

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Although orthostatic dizziness (OD) is a common complaint, its prevalence and medical impact in the general population are unknown. The study aims to assess prevalence, medical sequelae and healthcare and social impact of OD in the general population. Participants of the representative German National Health Interview Survey 2003 (n = 4077, age 18–89 years, response rate 52%) were screened for moderate or severe dizziness or vertigo. As part of a larger study on the epidemiology of dizziness and vertigo, a consecutive subsample of screen-positive participants (n = 825) underwent a structured medical interview for OD based on the criteria: (1) non-vestibular dizziness (i.e. diffuse non-rotational dizziness, light headedness, feeling of impeding faint), (2) provocation by sudden postural change (i.e. standing up from supine or sitting), (3) duration of seconds to several minutes, (4) absence of vestibular vertigo according to a validated neurotologic interview. The 12-month prevalence of OD was 10.9% (women 13.1%, men 8.2%), lifetime prevalence was 12.5% (women 15.0%, men 9.6%). OD accounted for 42% of all participants with dizziness/vertigo and for 55% of non-vestibular dizziness diagnoses. The prevalence of OD was highest in young people, although the proportion with severe OD steadily increased with age. OD led to syncope in 19%, falls in 17% and traumatic injury in 5% of affected subjects. Almost half of the individuals with OD (45%) had consulted a physician and 4% had been treated in hospital. OD is a frequent cause of non-vestibular dizziness for which patients often seek medical advice. It carries a considerable risk of syncope, falls and traumatic injury.

An abstract of this work was presented at the 15th Meeting of the European Neurological Society, 18–22 June 2005, in Vienna, Austria.