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Definition

What is benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

Vertigo is the feeling that you are spinning or the world is spinning around you. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is caused by a problem in the inner ear. It usually causes brief vertigo spells that come and go.

For some people, BPPV goes away by itself in a few weeks. But it can come back again. BPPV is not a sign of a serious health problem.

How common is benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

The lifetime prevalence of BPPV is about 2.4% and other estimates range from 10-64 per 100,000 people in the general population. However, many physicians believe that the disorder is often misdiagnosed and that the true frequency may be higher. BPPV most often affects older adults with a peak age of onset in the sixth decade. The disorder may affect individuals of any age, but is quite uncommon in those under 20 years of age. Women are believed to be affected at least twice as often as men. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

The main symptom is a feeling that you are spinning or tilting when you are not. This can happen when you move your head in a certain way, like rolling over in bed, turning your head quickly, bending over, or tipping your head back.

BPPV usually lasts a minute or two. It can be mild, or it can be bad enough to make you feel sick to your stomach and vomit. You may even find it hard to stand or walk without losing your balance.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is caused by a problem in the inner ear. Tiny calcium “stones” inside your inner ear canals help you keep your balance. Normally, when you move a certain way, such as when you stand up or turn your head, these stones move around. But things like infection or inflammation can stop the stones from moving as they should. This sends a false message to your brain and causes the vertigo.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo occurs most often in people age 50 and older, but can occur at any age. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is also more common in women than in men. A head injury or any other disorder of the balance organs of your ear may make you more susceptible to BPPV.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is benign paroxysmal position vertigo diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually tell that you have BPPV by asking you questions about your vertigo and doing a physical exam. You may have a test where your doctor watches your eyes while turning your head and helping you lie back. This is called the Dix-Hallpike test.

There are other things that can cause vertigo, so if your doctor doesn’t think you have BPPV, you may have other tests too.

How is benign paroxysmal position vertigo treated?

Your doctor can usually do one of two procedures in the office that works for most cases of BPPV. These procedures are called the Epley maneuver and the Semont maneuver. If you don’t want treatment or if treatment doesn’t work, BPPV usually goes away by itself within a few weeks. Over time, your brain will likely get used to the confusing signals it gets from your inner ear. Either way, you can do some simple exercises that train your brain to get used to the confusing vertigo signals.

Medicine can help with severe nausea and vomiting caused by your vertigo. But using this kind of medicine can also make BPPV take longer to go away. Only you know whether you feel sick enough that it is worth it to take medicine (and possibly have vertigo longer).

Be extra careful so that you don’t hurt yourself or someone else if you have a sudden attack of vertigo.

  • Do not drive or cycle if there is any chance that vertigo could strike and make you lose control. (This depends on what kind of movement triggers vertigo for you.)
  • At home, keep floors and walkways free of clutter so you don’t trip.
  • Avoid heights.

Don’t use tools or machines that could be dangerous if you suddenly get dizzy or lose your balance.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage benign paroxysmal position vertigo?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with benign paroxysmal position vertigo:

  • Use two or more pillows at night.
  • Avoid sleeping on your side with the ear that’s causing the problem facing down.
  • Get up slowly in the morning and sit on the edge of the bed for a moment before standing.
  • Avoid leaning over to pick things up or tipping your head far back to look up.
  • Be careful about reclining, such as when you are in the dentist’s chair or having your hair washed at a hair salon.
  • Be careful about playing sports that require you to turn your head, lean over, or lie flat on your back.

You can also help yourself by doing balance exercises and taking safety precautions.

  • Brandt-Daroff exercises can be done at home to help your brain get used to the abnormal balance signals triggered by the particles in the inner ear.
  • Balance exercises for vertigo, such as standing with your feet together, arms down, and slowly moving your head from side to side, may help you keep your balance and improve symptoms of vertigo.
  • Stay safe when you have balance problems by adding grab bars near the bathtub and toilet and keeping walking paths clear. This may prevent accidents and injuries.

Staying as active as possible usually helps the brain adjust more quickly. But that can be hard to do when moving is what causes your vertigo. Bed rest may help, but it usually increases the time it takes for the brain to adjust.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 4, 2017 | Last Modified: August 4, 2017

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