Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is a disorder arising from a problem in the inner ear. It is characterized by brief, intense episodes of dizziness associated with moving the head, often when rolling over in bed, getting up, or looking up. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium carbonate crystals, normally embedded in another part of the inner ear, break loose and migrate to one of the semicircular canals that sense head rotation.
When these crystals move inside the semicircular canal, they cause the inner ear to send false signals to the brain, creating the sensation of spinning.
The condition is called "benign" because it is not life-threatening, "paroxysmal" because it comes in sudden, brief spells, "positional" because it is triggered by certain head positions or movements, and "vertigo" due to the sensation of spinning.
Treatment for BPPV can be quite straightforward and usually involves physical maneuvers, with the Epley maneuver being the most common. This maneuver involves a series of head and body movements performed by a trained health professional that can move the dislodged crystals out of the semicircular canal and back to where they are less likely to cause symptoms.
The steps for the Epley maneuver are as follows:
1. Sit on a bed and turn your head 45 degrees to the side of the affected ear.
2. Quickly lie back, keeping your head turned. A pillow should be under your shoulders, with your head reclined onto the bed. Wait for 30 seconds.
3. Turn your head 90 degrees to the opposite side without raising it for another 30 seconds.
4. Turn your head and body an additional 90 degrees in the same direction, so you are looking at the floor. Wait another 30 seconds.
5. Slowly sit up, but remain on the bed a few minutes.
If the maneuvers are successful, they can relieve BPPV symptoms right away. Occasionally, however, the maneuvers need to be repeated. For some people, BPPV may recur after weeks or years, and further treatment may be necessary.
Apart from the Epley maneuver, there are other maneuvers like the Semont Maneuver and Brandt-Daroff exercises, which can be effective as well.
It's also important to know that BPPV, while not usually serious, can increase the risk of falls. If you experience symptoms of BPPV repeatedly or severely, it's crucial to see a healthcare professional. They can perform an accurate diagnosis to ensure that the dizziness isn't caused by something more serious and instruct you on the correct maneuvers. These treatments have high success rates, but in rare cases where maneuvers do not help, surgery may be an option in these cases.
So try not to panic, but if you are concerned see your GP for diagnosis as there are many issues that can cause dizziness.