What is BPPV?

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) often causes brief, but severe sensations of spinning or swaying. If you have this condition, you may feel like your own head is spinning from the inside.

BPPV often arises after your head changes position when you engage in activities like lying down, getting up, or looking up/down. While BPPV is widely seen in middle aged or older individuals, it can develop at any age, and is more prevalent in women.

Causes of BPPV

BPPV is typically caused by a disturbance of the fluid in your inner ear. There is an organ within your inner ear called the vestibular labyrinth. The vestibular labyrinth consists of three sensitive semicircular shaped canals filled with fluid and tiny hairs that detect and monitor the rotation and orientation of your head.

When tiny fragments of calcium carbonate crystals, which usually reside in another area of the ear, break free and become lodged in the semicircular canals, your body’s balance may suffer as incorrect signals may be sent to your brain.

Several examples of conditions that can potentially cause BPPV include:

  • Previous trauma or head injuries.
  • Other inner ear conditions.
  • Lengthy episodes of laying on your back.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Diabetes.

Oftentimes, the exact cause of BPPV is unknown. In these cases, the BPPV is referred to as idiopathic BPPV.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of BPPV

The primary symptoms of BPPV include the following.

  • Dizziness or loss of balance.
  • The feeling that you, your head, or that the world around you is rotating or shifting (vertigo).
  • Nausea or feeling seasick, potentially causing vomiting.

Your BPPV symptoms will may disappear for days and suddenly reappear. While the trigger for BPPV symptoms varies between individuals, they commonly begin after head movements.

If you experience recurring or severe symptoms similar to those described above, visit your ENT specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis for BPPV usually involves your ENT specialist evaluating you for signs of dizziness, vertigo, and involuntary shifting of your eyes.

Treatments for BPPV

Often, individuals with BPPV do not experience any symptoms after multiple weeks or months. However, if the symptoms are severe, or do not go away on their own, treatment usually includes a procedure known as canalith repositioning.

Canalith repositioning involves maneuvering your head in certain ways that moves the obstructing calcium carbonate crystals into areas of the ear canals where they no longer cause issues.

Surgical procedures to address BPPV are available if canalith repositioning does not correct the BPPV condition. The surgical procedure consists of a inserting a bone plug into your inner ear to stop the semicircular canal from responding to movements related the head or particle.

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