Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, known as BPPV, is an inner ear disorder that can cause dizziness, nausea, and difficulty balancing. Even everyday, mundane activities, such as moving your head in a certain way, can trigger the symptoms of BPPV.
While the symptoms are frightening and may feel very intense at times, this condition is relatively common and easily treated. Below, we discuss the symptoms and causes of BPPV, as well as how to treat BPPV and get the help you need.
Symptoms of BPPV
Simple activities, like moving your head, standing on a chair, or even simply tilting back to your head to look at something, may trigger the symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).
Common symptoms of BPPV may include:
- Dizziness (particularly if you tip back your head or move your head suddenly)
- Imbalance (this may also cause you to fall over easily)
- The “Spinning World” (your surroundings seem to be spinning, or you feel as if you are spinning)
These symptoms may be intermittent, and you may also experience periods with no symptoms at all, followed by periods with more intense symptoms.
There are many health issues that can cause some or all of these symptoms. Even if you’re fairly sure that BPPV is causing your symptoms, it’s good to check with a doctor first to rule out any other conditions.
Causes of BPPV
Our sensations of movement and balance are controlled by the inner ear. Inner ear canals are full of fluid, and the movement of that fluid is how our brain interprets our movements.
However, if these canals are damaged, our brains interpret our movements differently, thinking that we’re moving fast or spinning. In reality, we’re rolling over in bed or simply moving our heads a certain way. This is what causes intense nausea and dizziness, even from small movements.
BPPV is usually caused by calcium carbonate crystals coming loose inside the ear canals. Injury or degeneration can shake or force these crystals out of place. These crystals, then, end up in the inner ear fluid, causing an imbalance.
BPPV can further have a variety of causes, including head injuries, damage to the inner ear, and degeneration due to aging
Diagnosis of BPPV
It’s important to get a proper diagnosis or BPPV. While the symptoms are fairly obvious, there are other conditions that can produce vertigo-like symptoms.
Diagnosing BPPV is a relatively straightforward procedure. Your doctor will:
Examine Your Symptoms
You’ll need to briefly describe your symptoms, as well as when they occur. If you can, try and identify some triggers. If you have difficulty keeping track of your symptoms, you might want to try keeping an incident journal.
Every time you have a BPPV attack, write down everything you can about the attack and the events leading up to it (sudden movements, heights, etc).
Assess Your Medical History
As you get older, you may have a higher chance of developing the issue. Ear and head injuries also put you at a higher risk of developing BPPV. Recent ear infections may also cause BPPV.
Perform a Physical Examination
A close physical examination of your inner ear will be necessary, as well as a physical examination to rule out any other causes of nausea and dizziness.
Conduct Eye and Balance Tests
Certain eye tests and balancing tests will help a doctor identify the signs of BPPV. Eye tests can identify a “jumping” in the eyes during an attack, indicating that the patient is currently suffering from BPPV.
The jumping is caused by the brain’s confusion, believing that the body is moving fast or spinning. The eyes “jump,” trying to focus, while being told by the brain that the body is spinning.
Treatment of BPPV
Fortunately, BPPV is easily identified and treated. The disorder itself causes discomfort, nausea, and dizziness, but it can also cause falls and other injuries, such as hitting your head on a cabinet or other object during an attack of BPPV.
Surgery on the inner ear can be risky, and while medication may help to combat some of the symptoms, like nausea, it won’t help in the long term. However, there are a few non-surgical ways of dealing with BPPV, such as positioning.
Simply put, crystals are moving where they shouldn’t in your inner ear, affecting fluid levels and your brain’s perception of movement. These crystals can be moved into another area of the ear, where they won’t cause unpleasant symptoms.
This method of dealing with BPPV is called the Epley Manoeuvre. It involves sitting somewhere safe and comfortable (like a bed) and moving your head in a certain way. This loosens the crystals in your inner ear, hopefully allowing them to land somewhere less problematic.
You can also visit a physiotherapist, who can help you with the manoeuvre and perform your treatment in a safe and supervised setting. Many patients notice immediate relief from their symptoms, but others may need to wait days or weeks, repeating the manoeuvre a few times, until a noticeable change is made.
All in all, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is a frightening disorder, especially if you don’t realise what’s going on. Vertigo symptoms can feel like something much more serious, like a stroke, and it should be taken very seriously. Again, these symptoms are associated with other disorders and conditions, which is why it’s crucial to get a proper diagnosis.
For more information or to book an appointment, call us at 03 9034 7735. Alternatively, you can book online now. The Focal Allied Help team is here for you, helping you get back to your regular activities as soon and as safely as possible.