Why do I get bouts of dizziness and what can I do about it?
Have you experienced dizziness that occurs with position changes? If so, you may be experiencing a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV can be caused by a traumatic blow to the head (sometimes associated with a concussion), related to other inner ear conditions, or can occur after laying on your back for long periods of time (i.e. surgery, dental work). BPPV is most often described as “positional vertigo.” Symptoms usually present themselves when changing position, rotating your head, looking up or laying down on the affected side. Some BPPV symptoms include:
- Loss of balance/unsteadiness
- Blurred vision or trouble focusing
- Symptoms persist for a few seconds to several minutes after a position change
BPPV is an inner ear dysfunction that causes crystals in your ear (called otoconia) to become dislodged and fall into the semicircular canals. In a healthy ear, fluid typically flows through the semicircular canals, which transmit information about head rotation to the brain. The crystals sit in two adjacent structures, the utricle and saccule, which provide information about head motions up, down and side-to-side. When the crystals become dislodged they fall into the semicircular canals, sending signals to the brain that the head is moving, even though it may be still. This produces the sensation of dizziness.
How can BPPV be tested?
Follow up with your primary care physician if you experience an insidious onset of dizziness and nausea to rule out other diagnoses. BPPV will generally resolve itself in a few weeks to several months if left untreated. The symptoms of BPPV can also be minimized with medication to reduce dizziness and nausea. Vestibular therapy can also be a very successful treatment that will help to resolve symptoms within a few days. Vestibular therapy techniques can realign otoconia to their original location and reduce the “overstimulation” causing the dizziness. Therapy can also address balance and visual issues that are sometimes associated with this condition.
The author of this article is Brittany Morton, PT, DPT from Athletico – West Loop location.