Dizziness/Vertigo

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Dizziness/Vertigo

General Purpose:

Collectively, the term dizziness can be used to refer to a variety of sensations, including feeling faint, lightheaded, weak, or unsteady. More specifically, faintness (or presyncope) refers to feeling faint and lightheaded without losing consciousness. It can result from a sudden drop in blood pressure when an individual moves from a sitting to a standing position too quickly.

Conditions that affect the output of blood from the heart (such as cardiomyopathy or abnormal heart rhythm) can also lead to faintness.

 Disequilibrium refers to the loss of balance, or an unsteady feeling while walking. It can result from inner ear problems, impaired vision, nerve damage in the legs, arthritis, and certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Certain medications can also lead to disequilibrium as a side effect.

Vertigo is a term that refers more specifically to the sensation that things around you are spinning or moving. Vertigo typically occurs as a result of a problem with the nerves and balance mechanisms within the inner ear.

Vertigo can be worsened by moving from a reclined position to an upright one, as well as simply moving around in general. Severe cases of vertigo can result in nausea, vomiting, and loss of balance.

Vertigo may be caused by a variety of factors and conditions, including: a sudden change in the position of your head (this most common cause of vertigo); inflammation within the inner ear; excessive buildup of fluid in the inner ear (Meniere’s disease); migraine headache; noncancerous growths on the vestibular nerve (the nerve that connects the brain and the inner ear); and less often, vertigo can be associated with stroke, brain hemorrhage, or multiple sclerosis.

Generally speaking, dizziness of any kind – including vertigo – can increase an individual’s risk of falling and injury. It can also increase the likelihood of an accident while driving a car or operating other machinery.

Researchers in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, and psychology are working to develop better ways to help affected individuals prevent falls and injuries, and improve overall quality of life. Scientists are also working to develop better diagnostic tests and rehabilitation programs for individuals affected by dizziness and balance problems.

What Will Dizziness / Vertigo Clinical Trials Be Like?

When participating in a clinical trial designed to investigate some aspect related to dizziness/vertigo, there are a few basic tests and procedures you may receive; however, the ultimate design of the particular study will determine which specific procedures you will undergo.

The following is a list of some tests and procedures that may be used in clinical trials for dizziness/vertigo:

  • Detailed physical examination and medical history
  • Eye movement testing
  • Posturography testing: a test that allows your doctor to determine which parts of the body’s balance system you rely on the most and which parts may be creating problems for you. This simple test involves standing barefoot on a platform while trying to maintain balance under specific situations.
  • Rotary chair test: this test involves the use of a computer-controlled chair that slowly moves in a full circle; when speed is increased, it moves quickly in a small, arc-like pattern.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): this test uses a computerized x-ray machine to take detailed pictures of areas inside your body.

Typical Dizziness/Vertigo Clinical Trial Protocol:

Specific examples of clinical trials for dizziness and vertigo might include the following:

  • A randomized clinical trial to determine if the drug topiramate is useful in treating dizziness associated with migraine headaches. In such a study, half of the patients would be randomly assigned to receive treatment with the drug, while the other half would receive a placebo.
  • A randomized clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a newly-developed anti-dizziness drug for the treatment of vertigo. In this study, half of the patients would be randomly assigned to receive treatment with the drug, while the other half would receive a placebo. 
  • A randomized clinical trial to determine the safety and effectiveness of a blood-pressure regulating medication on the incidence of fainting in individuals who frequently experience presyncope and who have fainted at least three times in the previous year. In this study, half of the patients would be randomly assigned to receive treatment with the medication and the other half would receive a placebo.

A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:

Many clinical trials involve the comparison of an investigational treatment to a “standard” treatment. Some studies determine which therapy a patient receives through a process known as randomization, in which patients are randomly assigned to receive either the investigational treatment or the standard treatment.

On occasion, a trial will investigate the use of a standard treatment plus a new drug compared to standard treatment plus a placebo. Placebos are inactive or “sham” treatments that are identical in appearance to the active treatment but have no therapeutic value.

Placebos are necessary to help determine if adverse effects that occur during the clinical trial are the result of the investigational treatment or due to some other factor. They also allow researchers to measure the effects of the active treatment and observe what would have happened without it.

In rare instances where no standard therapy exists, or when a new drug is being evaluated for the first time, the investigational treatment might be compared to a placebo alone (such as the three examples provided above). In these types of trials, those patients who are randomized to the placebo group do not receive an active treatment.

It is important to know that placebo-only trials are only conducted when scientifically necessary and when patients have been adequately informed that they may end up receiving the placebo rather than the active treatment.

It is very important to note, however, that no one should ever participate in such a placebo trial when there is a widely available and highly effective standard treatment already in existence for their particular disease or condition.

Trial Eligibility and Medical Information Needed:

The type of clinical trial you may be eligible for often depends on many factors. Therefore, it is important to know many details pertaining to your specific diagnosis when searching for clinical trials. Examples of the details you may want to have on hand include:

  • Date of onset (and duration) of your dizziness or vertigo
  • Frequency of dizziness or vertigo
  • Your prior and current medical history, including viral and bacterial infections (if known)
  • Any identifiable triggers that make your dizziness or vertigo worse
  • A list of your current medications (including prescription, non-prescription, vitamins, and dietary supplements)
  • A list of your previous treatments for dizziness or vertigo

Suggested Search Terms:

When searching for information related to clinical trials for dizziness and vertigo, you may find it helpful to search for a specific condition, such as presyncope, disequilibrium, or vertigo.

You may also prefer to conduct a more generalized search using the term “dizziness.” Regardless of which option you choose, combining those terms with any of the following key words will likely yield findings of interest to you:  “chronic,” “treatment,” “elderly,” “positional,” “migraine,”
“childhood,” “pediatric,” “medication,” and “side effect.”

Current Search Term:

“Dizziness/Vertigo”

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