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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) - Topic Overview


Vertigo is the feeling that you are spinning or the world is spinning around you. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is caused by a problem in the inner ear camera.gif. It usually causes brief vertigo spells that come and go.

For some people, BPPV goes away by itself in a few weeks. But it can come back again.

BPPV is not a sign of a serious health problem.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is caused by a problem in the inner ear. Tiny calcium "stones" inside your inner ear canals help you keep your balance. Normally, when you move a certain way, such as when you stand up or turn your head, these stones move around. But things like infection or inflammation can stop the stones from moving as they should. This sends a false message to your brain and causes the vertigo.

The main symptom is a feeling that you are spinning or tilting when you are not. This can happen when you move your head in a certain way, like rolling over in bed, turning your head quickly, bending over, or tipping your head back.

BPPV usually lasts a minute or two. It can be mild, or it can be bad enough to make you feel sick to your stomach and vomit. You may even find it hard to stand or walk without losing your balance.

Your doctor can usually tell that you have BPPV by asking you questions about your vertigo and doing a physical exam. You may have a test where your doctor watches your eyes while turning your head and helping you lie back. This is called the Dix-Hallpike test.

There are other things that can cause vertigo, so if your doctor doesn't think you have BPPV, you may have other tests too.

Your doctor can usually do one of two procedures in the office that works for most cases of BPPV. These procedures are called the Epley maneuver and the Semont maneuver. If you don't want treatment or if treatment doesn't work, BPPV usually goes away by itself within a few weeks. Over time, your brain will likely get used to the confusing signals it gets from your inner ear. Either way, you can do some simple exercises that train your brain to get used to the confusing vertigo signals.

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