A review of childhood vestibular disorders

Journal Article


Journal Title

South African Family Practice

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Diagnosis of disorders of balance is challenging, as there are broad differentials and patients may present to a variety of healthcare practitioners, ranging from an audiologist to a psychiatrist. In addition, investigations, both at the bedside and laboratory, are often non-contributory, expensive and unpleasant. The adult dizzy patient is regarded with dread by many in the healthcare community: the patient is difficult to diagnose and challenging to treat, and the situation is frequently complicated by the presence of anxiety, panic and depression. When symptoms arise in childhood they cause alarm in the parents and the treating healthcare professional. Diagnosis and management of balance disorders in childhood, is even more demanding when patients are frequently unable to communicate the nature of the complaint. Furthermore, the aetiology and presentation of vestibular disturbance is markedly different between adults and children. Symptoms of vestibular disorders in children may easily be mistaken for behavioural or other medical problems, leading to under-diagnosis and inappropriate investigations and treatment. Detrimental effects of childhood vestibular disorders may include delayed gross motor development, learning and spatial problems, and time off school. This review summarises the most common causes of childhood vestibular disorders and suggests the need for a multidisciplinary approach to assessment.