Got vertigo? Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (or BPPV) is one of the most common causes of the disorienting sensation of spinning or whirling. It is caused by a disorder of the balance center of the inner ear; specifically the displacement of the calcium carbonate crystals that are normally found there. These crystals play an important role in sensing various head movements. When they become dislodged from their normal location, they cause abnormal irritation. With subsequent head movements, such as rolling over in bed or looking upwards, these “relocated” crystals will bring on feelings of vertigo.
Treatment for BPPV involves specialized positioning maneuvers, called the ‘Epley’ procedure, that are done in the office. These can be effective in up to 80% of cases and are very well-tolerated. In rare situations, surgery may be required to help stop repeated episodes of positional vertigo.
BPPV is extremely common in people over 50. The precise cause is usually not known, but degenerative changes in the inner ear are one possible explanation. BPPV will commonly occur in patients that have sustained a head injury, or in those who have suffered from a viral inner ear infection, such as vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis.
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