Dizziness is the #1 complaint from people over 75 years old in the United States but it can be experienced by individuals of any age. Sometimes dizziness may cause a vertigo emergency, other times it does not.

You should consult your primary care doctor if you have any dizziness or vertigo, especially if it is sudden or unexplained.

All dizziness or vertigo symptoms should always be reported to your primary care physician, but sometimes your primary doctor is not immediately available to advise you or to see you.

This educational blog is intended as general information to help you decide if you need to seek vertigo emergency care right away, if you have a sudden onset of dizziness or vertigo. Always consult your physician for your individual case and specific medical advice.

When To Seek Vertigo Emergency Care

Vertigo emergency care is recommended if you are experiencing new, severe dizziness or vertigo with any of the following symptoms:

  • sudden, severe headache
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • neck or arm pain
  • double vision or blurry vision
  • numbness in your arm or leg
  • difficulty moving your arm or leg (paralysis)
  • facial numbness or weakness
  • slurred speech
  • mental confusion
  • fainting
  • seizure

It is critical to seek vertigo emergency care within the first hour after onset of the symptoms listed above, to be assessed for serious health problems like a heart attack or stroke. Many people call 911 to get to the emergency room more quickly.

I saw a patient last week who was suddenly unable to stand or walk the night before I met her, and she was experiencing severe nausea, vomiting and vertigo. During my exam, she had signs of a stroke in a certain part of her brain that causes vertigo, but does not cause arm or leg weakness. I called 911 from her house during my exam and sent her to the hospital for vertigo emergency care.

It is always recommended that you seek vertigo emergency care if you experience any of the following (with or without dizziness):

  • are experiencing uncontrolled vomiting
  • are suddenly unable to sit up on your own
  • are suddenly unable to stand or walk
  • have a sudden hearing loss or change in hearing

It is also recommended to seek urgent medical care if you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo with ringing in your ear to the point of pain or you have persistent dripping of clear, thin fluid from your nose or ears.

If you are having difficulty walking and you are at risk of falling due to a new onset of dizziness or vertigo, you may have a vertigo emergency. If so, then immediate medical attention is also recommended to prevent a fall with injury, like a bone fracture.


This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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