Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, commonly referred to as BPPV, is a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo. It occurs when calcium deposits in the inner ear become dislodged from the otolithic membrane and settle in the semicircular canals. Any change in the position of the head causes these tiny crystals to shift, triggering dizziness.
What Causes BPPV?
It isn’t always known what causes these calcium deposits to break loose, though this is commonly the result of a head injury, inner ear infection, damage from ear surgery or prolonged back position associated with bed rest. Migraines might also play a role. Older patients are susceptible to degeneration of the otolithic membrane related to normal aging.
What Are the Symptoms of BPPV?
BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. The episodes of vertigo may be severe, but usually lasts for less than a minute. Other symptoms include dizziness or lightheadedness, loss of balance, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and concentration difficulties.
How Is BPPV Treated?
When a balance specialist begins a treatment plan for a patient, repositioning maneuvers are typically the first step in providing relief from vertigo. These medically developed exercises extract the canaliths from the fluid in your semicircular canals and move them back into the utricle, where they re-adhere to the otolithic membrane.
Types of Repositioning Maneuvers
Balance specialists use a few types of repositioning movements to treat patients with BPPV. Each uses slightly different movements and angles to move the calcium deposits from your inner ear canals. Known repositioning maneuvers include:
- Canalith Repositioning Procedure (CRP) or Epley maneuver
- Semont-Liberatory maneuver
- Half somersault maneuver or Foster maneuver
After your BPPV diagnosis, your physician or balance specialist will work with you to develop a treatment plan. The repositioning maneuvers that your physician recommends will depend on your individual case of BPPV.
Your doctor will give you clear instructions and help you learn and understand the techniques of your repositioning maneuvers. Some patients need the help of a balance doctor to perform their repositioning maneuvers each time, while other patients who feel comfortable with the process can usually perform the procedures at home.