Vertigo is the feeling that one’s surroundings are spinning, despite remaining stationary. There are a number of possible causes of vertigo, including benign paroxysmal positional vertigo – BPPV. Commonly BPPV produces a sensation of vertigo that is sudden and associated with certain movements of the head or changes in head position, such as turning to look in a particular direction. Hence, BPPV is also known as positional vertigo. Although BPPV is a hindrance, it generally does not result in serious harm to the sufferer. BPPV is more common in women than men and more frequently affects people aged above 40.
The vestibular system
BPPV is a condition which affects the vestibular system. The vestibular system is concerned with our sense of balance and is made up of a number of fluid-filled canals within the inner ear.
There are two subdivisions of the vestibular system;
the semicircular canals, which are involved in sensing rotations of the head
the otolith organs, which are involved in detecting linear head movements.
The otolith organs are implicated in BPPV. The otolith organs are the utricle and the saccule and are made up of tiny hair cells, which sense head movements and project into a layer of gel which has a number of small crystals embedded within it, known as otoliths.
In BPPV, the otoliths in the utricle and/or saccule become displaced, lodging in the semicircular canals. In many cases, the actual cause of the displacement is unable to be identified. Some potential causes of BPPV include middle ear surgery, trauma to the head/head injury, long periods of bed rest, Meniere’s disease and inner ear infections, such as labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis. All of these possible causes may allow the otoliths to become displaced from their usual position.
Whilst BPPV may resolve on its own accord, there are several treatment and management options which may help to improve symptoms and resolve the cause. Simple things which may help improve the symptoms of BPPV include avoiding lying on the affected side, sleeping with an extra pillow or two to elevate the position of the head and avoiding sudden head movements.
Points to remember
BPPV is a balance disorder which typically causes episodes of sudden and severe vertigo when the head is moved around. Common triggers include rolling over in bed, getting out of bed and lifting the head to look up. BPPV is caused by particles called canaliths within the balance organ of the inner ear. If you have questions about vertigo or BPPV contact our local doctor, who will arrange for you to see an Ear Nose Throat Specialist. We‘ll provide you with a straightforward, efficient and very effective treatment plan targeted to your condition.