What Is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo?

Vertigo is a sudden, intense feeling of dizziness characterized by the sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning. The most common form of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, also known as BPPV, in which the spinning sensation typically occurs when there is a change in the position of the head.

Although not life-threatening, benign paroxysmal vertigo can increase the risk of falls and cause bothersome symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. In most cases, the symptoms are intermittent and often resolve quickly. Episodes of BPPV can be triggered by a variety of routine activities, including bending over, tipping the head backward, sudden head movements, getting in or out of bed, or changing positions in bed.

Causes of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Structures located in the inner ear called otolith organs contain tiny crystals that monitor head movement, orient you to the position of your head, and help you sense the effects of gravity. Occasionally, one of these stones becomes dislodged and travels to the semicircular canal. As you move your head, the crystals cause the fluid inside the inner ear to move, which creates the sensation that you are still moving even though you are still. Although some cases of BPPV cannot be attributed to any particular cause, the condition can be the result of trauma or disorders that damage the inner ear.

Risk Factors for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

BPPV can affect anyone; however, it is most often seen in women and adults over the age of 50.

Diagnosing Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can usually be diagnosed through a physical exam. The doctor will guide you through a series of head movements to see if they trigger vertigo symptoms and involuntary eye movements called nystagmus.

Treatment of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Some cases of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo resolve on their own within a few weeks to months. If the symptoms are especially bothersome, a non-invasive procedure called canalith repositioning may provide relief. The procedure is typically performed by a doctor, audiologist, or physical therapist and involves guiding the head through a set of maneuvers designed to move the crystals from the semicircular canal to an area called the vestibule where they do not cause problems. Most patients experience relief after only one to two treatments.

Coping with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo Symptoms at Home

It is important to remember that BPPV puts you at risk for falling. You should avoid sudden head movements and bending over to pick up items from the floor. When standing up from bed or a chair, steady yourself and wait until the dizziness goes away before attempting to walk. You may also find relief by sleeping with your head elevated at a 45-degree angle and avoiding sleeping on the affected side.

Contact Us Immediately

If you have experienced intermittent dizziness for more than a week, it is time to seek help. The Hearing Doctors can help you determine the cause of your dizziness and recommend the appropriate treatment. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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