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What is BPPV?

Many people might have experienced dizzy spells or vertigo. One of the common beliefs is that they are suffering from Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is caused by the buildup of fluid in the chambers of the inner ear. In addition to vertigo, people with Meniere’s disease will have symptoms that include tinnitus and hearing loss lasting for 20 minutes or longer. These three symptoms must appear and recur repeatedly for true Meniere’s disease.

Vertigo is the sensation that you, or the environment around you, are moving or spinning. The most common cause of vertigo is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV can cause mild to intense brief bouts of vertigo, mostly lasting less than a minute or two. The episode of vertigo is usually aggravated by moving your head, such as when you look up or down, lie down, roll over, or sit up in bed.

Causes of BPPV:

Inside our ears, there are structures responsible for sensing our head movements, such as the vestibular system, which contains the semicircular canals and otolith organs. The otolith organ contains crystals that make us sensitive to gravitational force.

These crystals can fall off for a variety of reasons. When they are displaced, they can enter the semicircular canals. The otolith crystals flow in the semicircular canal, making your brain mistakenly think that your head is turning. However, your vision tells you that your head is still. The mismatch of these brain signals causes us to experience vertigo.

Treatment for BPPV:

BPPV is caused by the otolith crystals falling off and entering the semicircular canals. The most effective treatment is to put the otolith particles back to where they should be. This procedure is called Epley’s maneuver. The success rate of Epley’s maneuver is about 70-100%. After the assessment, the doctor or therapist will perform the Epley’s maneuver, and the crystals will be repositioned using a few simple movements of the head. They will also teach some exercises on your own that you can perform at home if needed.

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