Are My Dizzy Spells a Sign of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo?

Virtually everyone experiences minor episodes of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the medical name for the brief dizziness you may experience when you move quickly, changing your head position. The sudden movement sends your sense of balance spinning for a second or two. It’s normal and generally harmless. 

BPPV is the most common reason for vertigo. When it becomes chronic or increases in severity to where losing your balance and falling become issues, it’s time to visit the vertigo specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates in Lawrence and Ottawa. 

Once diagnosed, BPPV is usually easy to treat, so you’re steady on your feet once again. 

The signs of BPPV

In most cases, the symptoms of BPPV go away quickly. You recognize you were dizzy only after the sensation starts to pass. 

Dizziness becomes vertigo when the sensation lasts longer and you begin to perceive it while still in the episode. Your surroundings seem to be fluid and moving. You may become unsteady on your feet, and severe events may cause feelings of nausea and motion sickness to the point of vomiting. 

Even then, these sensations may be brief, lasting less than 60 seconds. That could be long enough, however, for the sensations to undermine your balance. Your risk of physical harm due to uncontrolled movements or falling may increase, making a BPPV episode potentially serious. 

Causes of dizziness

In many cases, there’s no known reason for BPPV, and this is called the idiopathic form of the condition. When a reason for BPPV is known, brain injuries are one of the primary causes, but you may have inner ear damage that affects the mechanisms that sense head movements and create signals for the brain. 

Your risk of BPPV increases as you get older, though it can affect people of any age. Women tend to be affected more often than men. Anyone who has suffered a head injury or concussion could be more susceptible to BPPV, as are those with conditions that affect the balance organs in the ear. 

Diagnosing BPPV

Your otolaryngologist can typically diagnose BPPV through a series of observational tests and a review of your symptoms in a short office visit. When these steps are inconclusive, diagnostic imaging may be advised, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

Treating vertigo

BPPV often disappears as spontaneously as it starts, after a few weeks or months. You may be able to reduce the amount of time you’re affected by undergoing canalith repositioning therapy. 

Particles of calcium floating in the balance organs of the ear can be moved out of the active path of fluid through a simple series of movements. 

As your caregiver moves your head slowly through these motions, these particles, called canaliths, settle into a part of the organ called the vestibule, where they cause no issues and can be reabsorbed by your body. 

You can learn the procedure yourself in case of recurrence. In rare cases, ear surgery may be necessary if BPPV continues. 

Contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates when BPPV starts to become more than an occasional nuisance. Call the nearest office directly to arrange your exam and consultation. 

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