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06/15/2009 - Questions and Answers

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

By: Novoviva webmaster

Question

I've been diagnosed with something called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. I get dizzy when I lean my head back too far. I'm male, 70, and in good health, otherwise.

What's the cause, and how can it be treated?
 

Answer

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is generally thought to be due to debris that has collected within a part of the inner ear. These are often crystals of calcium carbonate derived from a structure in the ear called the "utricle". The utricle may have been damaged by head injury, infection, or some other disorder of the inner ear, or it may have degenerated because of advanced age.
 

Symptoms are almost always precipitated by a change of position of the head with respect to gravity. Getting out of bed or rolling over in bed are common "problem" motions. Because people with BPPV often feel dizzy and unsteady when they tip their heads back to look up, sometimes it's called "top shelf vertigo."
 

Symptoms often subside or disappear within six months. Motion sickness medications are sometimes helpful in controlling nausea but are otherwise rarely beneficial. However, various kinds of physical maneuvers and exercises have proved effective.
 

The Epley maneuver is the most successful way of treating BPPV. It involves sequential movement of the head into four positions, staying in each position for roughly 30 seconds. Your doctor should be able to instruct you in this procedure, which you should do three times a day. The link below describes the maneuver.

 

Related Links
University of Tennessee: Ear & Balance Center
UCSanDiego: BPPV

Created on: 09/15/2004
Reviewed on: 06/15/2009

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