Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, commonly referred to as BPPV, is a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo. BPPV is caused when calcium deposits in the inner ear become dislodged from the otolithic membrane and settle in the semicircular canals. Any change in the position of the head causes these tiny crystals to shift, triggering dizziness.
BPPV is dizziness, typically a short-term spinning sensation, caused by calcium particles, otoliths, that are inappropriately displaced into the semicircular canals of the inner ear.
What Causes BPPV?
In cases of BPPV, the otoliths become displaced. This can occur from aging, infection, unknown reasons, head trauma, or labyrinthine disease. Once the otoliths are free-floating, 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.
There isn’t always an apparent cause when these calcium deposits break loose; however, it is commonly the result of a head injury, inner ear infection, damage from ear surgery or prolonged back position associated with bed rest. Migraines might also play a role. Older patients are susceptible to degeneration of the otolithic membrane related to normal aging.
What Are the Symptoms of BPPV?
BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. The episodes of spinning may be severe but usually lasts for less than a minute. Other symptoms include dizziness or lightheadedness, loss of balance, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and concentration difficulties.
How Is BPPV Treated?
BPPV is treated following an assessment by an otolaryngologist and audiologist to determine the specific location of the displaced otoconia. Once identified, the audiologist will perform a relatively simple procedure to resolve the condition and alleviate the symptoms.