What Is BPPV and How Is It Treated?

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Balance/Dizziness

What is BPPV?

BPPV, which is short for “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo,” is one of the more predominant causes of vertigo. For those who are unfamiliar with vertigo, it has been described by those who experience it and study it in a few different ways, including the feeling that the inside of your head is spinning, a whirling sensation, or the feeling that the world around you is spinning, creating feelings of dizziness and imbalance. 

These feelings of dizziness can be rather brief and mild in some cases, or quite severe, usually lasting no longer than minute. It’s a startling sensation to say the least. Certain motions, like moving your head up and down, rolling over in bed, sitting up from a lying position, or, inversely, lying down, can cause the feelings associated with BPPV. This is because the root cause of BPPV is located in your inner ear, so many different head movements will trigger its effects.

The patients that we’ve worked with have described feelings of nausea and even fear when discussing the disorientation that BPPV gives them. The disorientation can cause a loss of balance which in turn can increase your risk of a fall. Others have told us that the dizziness from BPPV has caused queasiness and even vomiting. So, while BPPV may not be as serious as many other ailments you could be stricken with, it still isn’t easy to live with, and there are options available to deal with it. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing these or similar symptoms, we encourage you to get tested so the appropriate diagnosis and treatment can be provided.  

How did I get BPPV?

In many cases, the actual cause of BPPV is not known, though experts have learned in studying BPPV over the years that it’s more likely to occur in women than in men, and that those over the age of fifty are at greater risk of developing it. In fact, it is reported that some 50% of all people seventy and older reported having symptoms associated with BPPV. 

For those cases where a root cause can be determined, it is usually related to some form of head trauma, or damage that has been done to the inner ear. Why does the inner ear play such an important role in all of this? Well the inner ear is where your vestibular system is located. The vestibular system sends information to your brain about balance, motion, spatial relationships, and other large motor functions. It helps keep us stable, maintain posture, and stay balanced as we’re moving. When there’s dysfunction in the vestibular system, feelings of vertigo and loss of balance are often the result. 

A primary part of the vestibular system is an organ called the vestibular labyrinth. It contains components called the semicircular canals, which are responsible for processing information related to rotational head movement. 

The vestibular system also features something called the otolith organs, which, in slight contrast to the semicircular canals, processes information related to the back-and-forth and up-and-down movements of the head. The otolith organs use small crystals, called “otoconia,” to monitor your relationship to gravity. 

These crystals can break loose from the otolith organs and make their way into the semicircular canals. When they do, it increases the sensitivity of the semicircular canals, causing the sensation of dizziness that many of us experience when we have BPPV. Sometimes just long periods of lying can cause the otoconia to move from the otolith organs to the semicircular canals. 

Recently, comedian, actor, and The Late Show host Stephen Colbert was diagnosed with BPPV after experiencing intense dizziness just from standing up. He was quoted in Vanity Fair as saying, “It’s almost entertaining, until I forget,” he says. “And then I go to stand up, and then I just fall down.” The magazine goes on to state that Colbert, just like many others who suffer from the effects of BPPV, uses prescribed BPPV exercises to alleviate its symptoms. 

How is BPPV treated?

Colorado Ear Care specializes in helping patients with BPPV by administering a physical maneuvering treatment called “Canalith Repositioning.” 

Canalith repositioning is a series of head maneuvers that are designed to move the otoconia crystals from your semicircular canals back to the otolith organs in an effort to relieve your dizziness and nausea. These simple, effective exercises can be done in the comfort and convenience of our office, and you’ll be happy to know that 95% of our patients have had a successful experience after just three or four treatments. 

The best way in which we can understand what you’re experiencing is through testing. Our practice prides itself on thorough, accurate testing so that we can give you the most-effective and personalized treatment recommendations possible. 

We encourage you to first take the quiz found on the BPPV page of our website and then contact us so we can book an appointment to discuss your results and explore any necessary additional testing that you might need. You deserve to live a life that is balanced and dizziness free. With falling being a top health risk in older adults, there’s no reason not to learn more about how you can seek a better understanding of this condition. Providing personalized treatment recommendations delivered by a team of experts who truly care about your well-being is what Colorado Ear Care is all about.

Talk with one of our friendly hearing and balance professionals today.