Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, also known as BPPV, is a common form of vertigo, a balance disorder caused by inner ear issues. Patients who suffer from BPPV may have brief periods of vertigo that come and go. Although BPPV is not a life-threatening condition, it should be evaluated by a doctor to ensure proper treatment.

Causes of BPPV

BPPV is caused by a problem with the inner ear. The inner ear contains tiny particles of calcium that stimulate nerve cells and help to maintain balance. When these particles shift or are disrupted, vertigo may occur. BPPV may be caused by an infection or inflammation of the ear that causes the calcium particles to shift, resulting in balance problems and vertigo.

Symptoms of BPPV

Patients with BPPV experience a sensation of tilting or spinning, although neither is actually occurring. In some cases, the vertigo may be brought on by a tilt or turn of the head. These symptoms may last for a few minutes at a time, and are usually mild. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty standing or walking

Diagnosis of BPPV

To diagnose BPPV, a physical exam is performed, as well as a test of the nervous system to detect communication issues between the nerves and the brain. Additional tests may include an electronystagmography or an MRI scan.

Treatment of BPPV

Most cases of BPPV go away on their own, with no treatment needed. A doctor may prescribe certain medications, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids, to relieve the vertigo symptoms of BPPV. Antibiotics may also be prescribed when a bacterial infection is the underlying cause.

Although BPPV often goes away on its own, recurrence is possible. To prevent recurrence, certain exercises that train the brain to resist vertigo-inducing signals can be performed. Although severe symptoms can be managed with medication, they may cause BPPV to last longer.

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