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Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Last Updated July 2022 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Leisa Bailey, MD

What is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a problem with the inner ear. It causes you to feel dizzy for a short period or longer. It comes on suddenly. It is the most common form of vertigo and the easiest to treat.

Symptoms of BPPV

You might feel like the room is spinning or that your surroundings are moving. This feeling is called vertigo. BPPV is associated with feelings of vertigo when you move a certain way. This could be when you turn your head, stand up, roll over in bed, or lie down. Even moving your eyes quickly can trigger dizziness. You might also feel nauseated. The nausea and dizziness usually go away in a few seconds. Sometimes it can last longer. BPPV is bothersome, but it’s rarely serious.

What causes BPPV?

Your inner ear contains tiny calcium particles that help you keep your balance. When you move your head, the calcium particles stimulate your nerves. The nerves send your brain a signal telling it which direction your head is moving. Normally, these particles are distributed evenly in the inner ear’s 3 canals.

Sometimes, the particles get displaced. When this happens, the nerves tell your brain that your head has moved more than it has. This incorrect signal causes vertigo.

BPPV is most often associated with aging. Other causes include a family history, an ear infection, or a head injury.

How is BPPV diagnosed?

Your doctor may suspect BPPV if you feel dizzy when you move your head or body in certain ways. He or she will conduct a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. They may order tests to rule out other causes of your vertigo. These could include different types of tests to provide an image of your inner ear and head.

Can BPPV be prevented or avoided?

The primary thing you can do to prevent or avoid BPPV is to avoid head positions that trigger it. Also, talk to your doctor about preventing ear infections.

BPPV treatment

Your doctor can show you some easy head movements that will help relieve BPPV. These movements help shift the particles out of the inner ear canals and into areas where they will not cause vertigo. Doing these movements can stop the symptoms. They may keep the dizziness from coming back.

If your BPPV is caused by an ear infection, your doctor may be able to suggest antihistamines. Other medicine to treat the dizziness includes anticholinergics, meclizine, or scopolamine.

Living with BPPV

BPPV can be bothersome and uncomfortable. But the simple head maneuvers usually help the symptoms go away. It can come back at any time but is easily treatable.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What could be causing my dizziness?
  • What tests can rule out other diseases?
  • Is there anything I can do at home to stop the dizziness or make myself feel better?
  • What can I take for the nausea?
  • Is it okay to exercise while I’m experiencing BPPV?
  • Will my BPPV ever go away?
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