If you’ve ever had Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), chances are you won’t forget it. While everyone will experience it differently, BPPV causes vertigo–an unexpected but false sense of spinning–and is the most common among inner ear problems. BPPV is not life-threatening and lasts only for brief periods of time, but it still can affect your quality of life and may put you at risk for falls. Read on to learn more about what causes BPPV, its symptoms and diagnosis, and how it can be treated.

What Causes My BPPV?

Special small calcium crystals located within the complex structure of the inner ear help you with balance, motion and posture, and they are meant to stay in place. As you get older, the crystals can become loose and move to the wrong part of the inner ear, the semicircular canals. As the crystals float and resettle, your brain receives forceful but inaccurate messages that your body is spinning violently. Something as simple as tilting your head, lying down, or rolling over in bed can shake the crystals loose and trigger the symptoms of BPPV.

What Kinds of Symptoms Should I Look for?

Common symptoms of BPPV include:

  • Vertigo: a sense that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning, even if you are lying still
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea (and sometimes vomiting)
  • Unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • Rapid involuntary eye movement

These symptoms may come and go quickly, lasting no more than a minute. The symptoms of BPPV may happen again, depending on whether new crystals in the inner ear loosen and move. Although these symptoms don’t seem serious, the risk of falling caused by losing your balance is. Diagnosis and treatment of BPPV are key to staying safe by reducing your fall risk.

How Is BPPV Diagnosed?

As a first step, your doctor at Scottsdale ENT will perform a balance test to identify the cause of your vertigo and dizziness. Since the inner ear controls both hearing and balance, one of Scottsdale ENT’s audiologists will work closely with your doctor to help with diagnosis and treatment options. The balance test consists of a group of diagnostic tests that are non-invasive, straightforward and painless. They measure your balance and center of gravity, inner ear function, and eye movements. The results of the balance test will provide your doctor with the necessary information to diagnose and treat your symptoms.

What Are the Treatment Options for BPPV?

The symptoms of BPPV may go away after several weeks or months. But getting treatment for this condition can give you some relief and, more importantly, reduce your chances of falling due to balance problems. In most circumstances, your Scottsdale ENT will perform a series of simple movements for the positioning of your head. The goal of these movements is to move the calcium crystals from the semicircular canals back into their original, stabilized place in the inner ear. The doctor will have you hold these positions for about 30 seconds after your symptoms stop. It may take one or two treatments for you to feel relief from your BPPV symptoms. Sometimes the doctor will teach you these movements so that you can do them at home if needed.

You may be inconvenienced by the symptoms of BPPV. But the loss of balance associated with it greatly increases your risk of serious falls. Take the initiative to be safe and get your symptoms checked out and treated.

As Arizona’s most advanced center for ENT health, Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat can help through a number of advanced tests, using their state-of-the-art equipment. Contact us to schedule a balance test today!

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Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital, and clinical settings.