Benign positional vertigo is a very common cause of dizziness. This is the symptom of spinning which can be severe enough to make people fall over. In BPV the spinning stops on its own and only lasts a few minutes. It can come on randomly and may happen many times, sometimes several times a day. BPV refers to a condition where vertigo is intermittent with no specific disease associated.
The condition is caused by the labyrinth of the inner ear. This is responsible for controlling the body's balance. The inner ear also contains the semicircular canals. The three curved tubes contain tiny hairs and fluid which moves when the head moves. This allows the body to orientate the head in three-dimensional space. In this way they work in a similar fashion to a gyroscope. As well as this, tiny crystals called otoliths are attached to very small nerves and move with movement of the head. BPV is often blamed on these tiny crystals becoming detached and rattling around inside the inner ear. This can cause vertigo.
In about 50% of the cases of benign positional vertigo no cause is found. Sometimes it may be due to hitting the head or moving the head in an abnormal way. It is possible that this dislodges the otoliths or causes irritation to the structures of the inner ear. Other causes include viral infection, otitis and ear surgery. Sometimes rapid movements of the head and prescribed tablets can cause a problem.
The feeling is the same as when you have been on a roundabout when you were a child. A bizarre sensation of spinning when you are not moving that is often associated with nausea and sometimes nystagmus. This is when the eyes of the move from side to side, up and down or round and round.
Dr Toby Bateson for ZenPlugs Ltd