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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Vertigo

09/13/1999

Question:

My 73 year old mother has sudden onsets of vertigo. At there times she has low potassium and is dehydrated. What is the connection?

Answer:

A similar question was raised recently.

Low potassium and dehydration can indicate a general metabolic problem that needs addressing by an internist or family physician. Vertigo or dizziness can often result from dehydration alone, or in combination with electrolyte abnormalities (like low potassium).

Things to have evaluated would include why your mother is dehydrated and why her potassium level seems to drop as well. Is this a spontaneously occuring condition, or in response to something else (e.g. medication)?

As far as the vertigo is concerned, evaluation by an Ear Nose and Throat physician might be of benefit. A thorough history and physical examination aimed at evaluating the inner ear, along with auditory and vestibular testing, might either implicate or rule out the inner ear as the source of the vertigo. Although the inner ear does control balance to some extent, numerous other things can also cause symptoms of dizziness or vertigo. The key is to carefully workup all possible causes and arrive at a treatment based upon what the specific cause is.

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Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati