What is BPPV?

BPPV is the most common disorder of the inner ear that results in vertigo. This condition is caused by calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia) moving into the wrong area of the inner ear (semicircular canals). As you do such things as lie down in bed or look upwards, gravity causes these particles to move back and forth within these canals and your brain perceives you are spinning. The name of this disorder is derived from the fact that BPPV is benign (not life threatening), paroxysmal (dizziness that occurs suddenly and is generally brief), is positional (dizziness occurs with particular head positions) and causes vertigo (sensation of spinning).

What are the symptoms of BPPV?

The symptoms can vary in each person but are generally brought on by movement or position changes of the head. Laying back, tilting the head backwards, or rolling over in bed are all movements that can bring on symptoms. Although many people feel normal when not in a stimulating position, some do have a sensation of imbalance. The symptoms can last for days, months or occasionally forever. In some, the dizziness can reoccur after it resolves completely.

What causes BPPV?

In most people, BPPV occurs for no apparent reason (idiopathic). In a small group of people, it occurs after a head injury.

How is the diagnosis made?

Your provider will make the diagnosis based on your symptoms, physical examination and the results of your hearing and balance tests. Occasionally, other tests may be required.

How is BPPV treated?

There are several treatment options. In general, medications are rarely effective. The canalith repositioning maneuver can be performed in the office by a trained professional. In this maneuver, your head and body will be put into very specific positions so the particles are moved back into the correct area in the inner ear where they can be reabsorbed.