Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) alone accounts for more than approximately 15% of all the cases reported with vertigo. As the name suggests, the patient complains of paroxysms (episodes) of vertiginous bouts especially on the movement of head e.g. while getting up from bed, turning or bending the neck sideways, etc. The intensity of vertiginous bout is normally short and sudden and often frequent or intermittent.
What are the symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo?
Activities that bring on BPPV symptoms vary from person to person, but getting out of bed or rolling over in bed is often the movement that triggers dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness, imbalance or nausea. Some people feel dizzy when they tip their heads back to look up, and for this reason BPPV is sometimes called ‘top shelf vertigo’. Symptoms are usually intermittent, stopping for several weeks or months at a time and then coming back for a longer or shorter period.
What are the causes of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo?
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo can be caused by head injury degeneration of the vestibular system in the inner ear due to increasing age or damage caused by an inner ear disorder. There is also an association between BPPV and osteoporosis, and people who work with a persistent head-tilt, such as dentists and barbers, can suffer from BPPV. However, in a large number of cases there is no known cause.
How is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo diagnosed?
Diagnosis of the condition will be made based on your medical history answers to questions about when and where the symptoms occur a physical examination and possibly the results of tests carried out by an audiologist. Other tests may be required in cases where symptoms do not fit the usual pattern or are in both ears, both of which make diagnosis more challenging.
Treatment of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo can be diagnosed and treated with simple exercises, taught by a general physician or physiotherapist who is familiar with the techniques required. However, if symptoms persist and cause distress, you may be referred to a specialist.
Very short-term use of motion sickness medications is sometimes useful to control the nausea associated with BPPV, and a number of easily learnt manoeuvres and exercises are proven to be very effective treatments.
BPPV can subside with time, but it is important to seek treatment in the early stages to prevent falls or injury. In extreme cases, surgery can be carried out to block the affected canal without disturbing the function of the rest of the vestibular system.