Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Definition

Vertigo is a feeling of movement or spinning when you are still. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) happens when the vertigo is caused by changes in the position of the head. This might include standing after bending down, turning the head in bed, or extending the neck to look up. People with BPPV can often identify which moves cause the most problems.

Causes

The inner ear contains tiny crystals. These crystals can sense movement and help you keep your balance. BPPV occurs because of a shift in location of these crystals or the clumping of these crystals. When this happens, your brain gets signals that you are moving when you are really not moving. This causes the feeling of movement.

Inner Ear
Inner ear deposits
The clump of ear crystals can lead to BPPV.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

In some cases, the cause of BPPV is unknown. In others, it may be caused by:

  • Head injury
  • Viral infection
  • Disorders of the inner ear
  • Prolonged immobility of the head
  • Age-related changes to inner ear

Risk Factors

Increasing age increases your chances of getting BPPV.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Sensation of spinning or rotation when you change head position that last less than one minute
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear
  • Vision or hearing problems

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Part of the process will be to eliminate other disorders. Your doctor may recommend tests to help determine the cause of vertigo symptoms. Tests may include:

  • Blood pressure test, both lying down and standing up
  • Blood tests
  • Auditory tests
  • Vision tests
  • Dix-Hallpike maneuver—moving your head or body in certain ways to test response
  • MRI
  • Electronystagmography (ENG)

Treatment

Many times BPPV can resolve on its own, usually within months of onset. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Your doctor may suggest specific vestibular exercises. These exercises use a series of eye, head, and body movements to get the body used to moving without dizziness. You may work with a physical therapist to learn these.

Canalith Repositioning

This procedure is done in your doctor’s office. Your doctor will move your head in different positions to try to resettle the tiny crystals. The procedure is sometimes repeated and you may be taught how to do it at home.

Surgery

Some people with BPPV undergo surgery. During surgery, a piece of wax may be used to plug one area of your ear. This will prevent fluid in your inner ear from moving. Another type of surgery that may be done involves cutting the nerve from the inner ear.

Prevention

BPPV can't be prevented.

Revisions

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

Colon cancer screens can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing growths before they turn into cancer. Screens also find colon cancer early, while it’s easiest to treat.