Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common cause of balance problems for many patients. When present, dizziness (usually a brief sensation of spinning) can be triggered by minor head movements, and can make regular daily activities very challenging.
BPPV causes about half of all vertigo cases amongst older adults and a fifth of all cases overall.
If you have developed BPPV, the tiny calcium deposits located on the otolithic membrane in your inner ear have dislodged. These tiny particles, which are called canaliths, drift into one of the fluid-filled semicircular canals (component of the balance portion of the inner ear). When the canaliths shift within the cochlea, it causes you to experience intense episodes of dizziness and vertigo.
Causes and Symptoms of BPPV
It’s not easy to identify the cause of benign positional vertigo. A cause cannot be identified in the majority of patients, but some patients develop problems after head trauma (sometimes even minor trauma or whiplash) or after an inner ear infection or Meniere’s attack. BPPV also appears to develop as a consequence of deterioration as it is more common in aging patients. The most common symptom of BPPV is vertigo. Other signs of the condition include lightheadedness, blurred vision and nausea.
Diagnosing and Treating BPPV
When you visit Bartlesville ENT for vertigo symptoms, we’ll begin the diagnostic process with a physical exam and a series of balance tests. These tests will reveal whether your problem with vertigo is originating in your inner ear. Once you receive a definitive diagnosis, treatment will begin.
BPPV is treated effectively in most cases using particle repositioning maneuvers. It works to desensitize your inner ear’s balance system to problematic movements and retrain your central nervous system and brain to sync signals from your vestibular and vision systems. Your VRT plan for BPPV will be unique to your particular problems, concerns and symptoms. During your VRT, you’ll likely learn how to perform repositioning maneuvers such as the Epley maneuver. Repositioning maneuvers are special sets of movements that remove the canaliths from your inner ear canal fluid. These can often provide complete relief for patients in a few quick and easy treatments, resolving symptoms of BPPV.
Those patients who fail to respond to particle repositioning maneuvers may be referred for vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), or may undergo other more complicated medical or surgical treatments. Rare patients may require referral to an otologist (an ear nose and throat physician specializing in the medical and surgical treatment of the inner ear).