Losing your balance due to vertigo can be an upsetting occurrence. While vertigo itself isn’t usually a sign of a serious condition, the results of a dizziness-induced fall certainly can be.
The most common cause of this dizzy, spinning feeling is medically called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
This inner ear disorder is caused by the displacement of tiny crystals of calcium carbonate. When they get into the wrong part of your vestibular system, your brain receives conflicting information about your body’s movement.
BPPV isn’t the only cause of vertigo, but it’s the most likely. Fortunately, it’s typically easy to treat, and once you know how, you can treat future episodes at home.
See the vertigo specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates in Lawrence or Ottawa to confirm your case of BPPV and learn how to settle down this alarming but harmless condition.
Anatomy of the inner ear
You think of your ears foremost for their ability to translate sounds into nerve impulses, giving you the ability to hear.
Beyond that, however, parts of your ear are also essential for your sense of balance, knowing where you are in three-dimensional space. Your inner ears and your eyes work together to help you know which way is up, which way is down, and how your body is moving.
The parts of the inner ear that focus on balance are called the semicircular canals. The walls of these canals are lined with tiny hairs called cilia. These cilia sway back and forth when you move, floating in the liquid endolymph. However, they only sway when your head is in motion.
At the top of the cilia are those calcium carbonate crystals mentioned earlier. The motion of these crystals creates the nerve impulse that suggests movement to your brain.
When crystals get loose
Your ear functions as it should when the crystals, called canaliths, remain attached to the cilia. When they break loose, however, they continue to move after the cilia come to rest, so your brain receives conflicting information about the motion of your head.
There are risk factors that make BPPV more likely. You’re more likely to experience loose canaliths if:
- You’re over 65
- You’ve experienced chronic inner ear infections
- You’ve suffered one or more head injuries.
BPPV isn’t difficult for a doctor to diagnose because your eyes continue to move with loose crystals after your head stops. Along with your medical history and report of symptoms, a physical exam is all you need.
Restoring canaliths to their proper places is remarkably easy too. It’s possible to nudge canaliths around by precise movements of your head. There are several techniques to reset canaliths, including the Epley maneuver and the Semont-Liberatory maneuver.
Canalith repositioning procedures typically produce improvements over 85% of the time.
Given the ease of diagnosis and treatment, there’s no reason to live with vertigo due to BPPV. Call the nearest location of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates to schedule your examination.