Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

If the room is spinning and you don't know why, you may have a condition known as BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. This unpleasant malady strikes many in middle age, and the cause isn't always known. The good news is that it's rarely serious, but the bad news is that it can make getting out of bed and going about your day an exercise in fighting nausea and trying to keep your balance. Here are some important facts to know about this condition:

What causes BPPV?
Our ears contain several canals nestled inside a small organ called the vestibular labyrinth. These canals are filled with fluid and hair-like sensors that keep tabs on your head's rotation. Our ears also contain small organs called otolith organs that contain crystals. The crystals react to movement and gravity. When some of these crystals get dislodged from the otolith organs and wind up in one of the canals of the vestibular labyrinth, the canal starts responding to changes in head position that it normally would never sense. The result? Dizziness and the sensation that your head is spinning internally.

How do the crystals get dislodged?
About half the time, doctors don't know exactly why the crystals get knocked out of position. Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as a blow to the head. It also could happen if you have a disorder that damages the inner ear. Only rarely does it happen because of ear surgery or lying too long on your back.

Are there complications of this disorder?
The only serious complication is that it can increase your chance of falling and injuring yourself.

Is BPPV treatable?     
Yes. A doctor or therapist can perform a series of head-positioning maneuvers on you right in his or her office. These slow movements may help the crystals travel from the canal where they've ended up into a different area of your ear where they can be reabsorbed. You need to avoid lying flat right after the maneuvers, and you should sleep with your head elevated for the first night afterwards. This allows the crystals to settle into a less troublesome spot in your ear. It's possible that you'll need more than one session of these maneuvers, but your doctor or therapist may teach them to you so you can do them at home.


Source: Mayo Clinic,