Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, commonly referred to as BPPV, is a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo. BPPV is caused when calcium carbonate crystals in the inner ear become dislodged from the otolithic membrane and settle in one of the semicircular canals. Subsequently, any change in the position of the head can cause the tiny crystals to shift, triggering dizziness.
What Causes BPPV?
Displacement of the calcium carbonate crystals can occur from aging, infection, head trauma, labyrinthine disease or other unknown causes. BPPV is the most common cause of dizziness in individuals over the age of 65. Once the crystals are settled in a semicircular canal, specific positions of the head (often times, turning over in bed, looking up/down) can cause the otoliths to send a false signal to the brain, resulting in brief, but intense periods of dizziness or vertigo.
What Are the Symptoms of BPPV?
The main symptom of BPPV is spinning, or vertigo, that is provoked by specific positions of the head. The episodes of spinning may be severe but usually lasts for less than a minute. Once the spinning subsides, it is not uncommon for individuals with BPPV to feel unsteady, or “off”. Other symptoms include lightheadedness, imbalance, nausea, vomiting and difficulty concentrating.
How Is BPPV Treated?
BPPV is treated following an assessment by an audiologist that determines the specific location of the displaced crystals. Once identified, the audiologist can perform the appropriate maneuver to move the crystals out of the semicircular canal.