The time frame is very important in making a diagnosis of vertigo versus dizziness, said Joel Goebel, MD, Director of the Dizziness and Balance Center, and Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Otolaryngology, Washington University, St. Louis. Noting that vertigo lasts seconds, not minutes or hours, he said, If you listen to the patient, you don’t want to hear how long they’re dizzy as much as how long they’re spinning, how long the room is moving around them. Anyone who spins for even a few seconds is going to feel dizzy for quite a while afterwards.
Dr. Goebel added that a patient suffering from a spinning attack lasting more than a few minutes is probably going to present to an emergency room or an internist, where the patient will receive a scan to rule out a vascular event. Vertigo lasting for ‘minutes’ can be a TIA [transient ischemic attack] if associated with other brainstem signs. It can be migraine or even Meniere’s disease, although migraine and Meniere’s usually have a history of starting in younger years.
Vertigo lasting for hours-the person who wakes up spinning and can’t walk very well-that’s most likely vestibular neuritis, Dr. Goebel said.