Riding the Tilt-A-Whirl can be great fun for kids, but if your daily existence is like one long carnival ride thanks to the dizziness caused by BPPV, it can be a life-stopping nightmare. Fortunately, BPPV, a type of Vertigo, can be easily and quickly treated.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a general feeling of dizziness, often manifesting as a sense of spinning or motion sickness. Other symptoms can include a loss of balance, ringing in the ears, difficulty focusing your eyesight, and a loss of hearing in one ear.
Vertigo can either be central or peripheral. Central vertigo is a condition within your brain or brainstem. Peripheral vertigo is a problem with the inner ear, which helps control your balance.
BPPV is the most common type of peripheral vertigo. Other types of peripheral vertigo include:
- Labyrinthitis, which is triggered by an inner ear infection
- Vestibular neuronitis, which is an infection of the vestibular nerve
- Meniere’s disease, which is a severe form of vertigo that can last up to 24 hours and cause vomiting, nausea, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears
What Is BPPV?
BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, is a disorder of the part of the inner ear that communicates with the brain and controls balance and eye movement.
Calcium crystals known as otoconia come loose from the utricle, part of the labyrinthine balancing system of the inner ear, and their movement causes a dizzying effect when the head is moved left, right, up, or down.
BPPV is usually diagnosed using the Dix-Hallpike maneuver. A clinician will rotate the patient’s head approximately 45°, then lower their head below the edge of the bed/examination table, then observe the movement of their eyes. If nystagmus, or jumpy eyes, occurs, then the patient is most likely suffering from BPPV.
What Causes BPPV?
For some people, BPPV just occurs for seemingly no reason. It is most common in people over the age of 60. Outside influences can also cause BPPV, such as:
- Head trauma
- Holding head in one position for a period of time, like when in a dentist’s chair
- The jarring of biking on rough trails
- Restless tossing and turning in bed
- Standing up quickly, abruptly, or with momentum from a chair or bed
- Inner ear infection/disease
- Post-surgery on ear
How Is BPPV Treated?
Fortunately, BPPV is quite easy to treat, just by using gravity and a specific sequence of head positions. Similar to the Dix-Hallpike maneuver used in the diagnosis of BPPV, the Epley maneuver begins by turning the head to a 45° angle, then lowering the shoulders onto the bed. It is completed with two more 90° head turns and then, finally, returning to an upright seated position.
This series of turns and holds, and then sitting back up while the head is still turned, returns the crystals to the utricle, which the body will then absorb. The process may need to be done a few times until the dizziness subsides.
Discard the Dizziness
BPPV has effects far beyond feelings of dizziness and symptoms of vertigo. Unfortunately, many patients feel like their lives and their roles within their families come to a halt. They no longer feel safe driving, taking care of grandchildren, and much more. To make things worse, many doctors don’t do – or even know – about the physical therapy maneuvers for BPPV. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe motion sickness medications (such as Meclizine) that can make you drowsy. However, they often just tell patients to live with it, that it will go away eventually, and there’s nothing you can really do.
But there is hope. The staff at Clear Choice Physical Therapy in Fort Lauderdale has extensive experience in dealing with BPPV vertigo, as well as many other physical therapy services. To get off the dizzying ride of BPPV, contact us today.