Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, otherwise known as BPPV, is the most common cause of vertigo. Vertigo is the sudden sensation that you are spinning or that the room is spinning. BPPV is characterized by brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness, which can be caused or provoked by specific changes in the position of your head. For instance, this vertigo sensation may occur when you bend over to tie your shoes or when you go to lie down in bed or even when you roll over in bed. The dizziness typically lasts less than a minute. Along with the dizziness are abnormal rhythmic eye movements called nystagmus. Nystagmus is when the eyes make repetitive and uncontrolled movements. These movements tend to affect balance and coordination. They can be side to side, up and down, or even in a circular pattern. Most often with BPPV, the eye movements are side to side and can be controlled or diminished when a person tries to fixate on a non-moving object.
Typically, there is no known cause for BPPV. However, it can stem from several things, such as a minor to severe blow to the head, a calcium deficiency, or other idiopathic causes. The inner ear balance organ is called the vestibular labyrinth and is comprised of several structures. There are three loop-shaped structures (semi-circular canals) that are filled with hair cells that act to monitor the rotation of your head. There are also two other organs known as the otolith organs. These also monitor the movements of your head but more specifically up and down, right and left, and back and forth. Inside these organs are some crystals that help make you sensitive to gravity changes. When BPPV occurs, these crystals become dislodged and can move into the semi-circular canals. When the crystals get into the canals, they tend to cause a drag in the fluid which triggers the hair cells to become sensitive to head positions that they would not usually respond to, which is where the dizziness comes from.
Signs and symptoms of BPPV can come and go and can vary from person to person. BPPV is rarely serious except when it increases the chance of falls for some individuals. Typically, this is a non-life-threatening condition and can be treated by an Audiologist, ENT physician, or a physical therapist.
If you feel that you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please call our office today!