NORD gratefully acknowledges Terry D. Fife, M.D, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Barrow Neurological Institute, for the assistance in the preparation of this report.
Benign paroxysmal position vertigo (BPPV) is a disorder characterized by brief, recurrent bouts of vertigo. Vertigo is a sensation of spinning, whirling or turning. Individuals often feel as if the room is moving or spinning and they can lose their balance and have difficulty standing or walking. During the bouts of vertigo, affected individuals often have abnormal eye movements as well (nystagmus). BPPV is most often triggered by rapid, sometimes unexpected changes in head position. The severity of the disorder varies. In some cases, it only causes mild symptoms, while in others it can potentially cause more severe, even debilitating symptoms. BPPV may disappear on its own only to return weeks or months later. Most affected individuals can be easily and effectively treated by non-invasive methods such as canalith (or canalolith) repositioning maneuvers. However, BPPV may recur even after effectively treated. BPPV is believed to be caused by the displacement of small calcium carbonate crystals within the inner ear. These tiny crystals become dislodged from their normal location and fall into one of three semicircular canals, which are tiny, interconnected, looped tubes that serve to detect movements of the head and that play a role in helping the body maintain balance. The exact, underlying cause of this displacement is not always known (idiopathic). Recurrences are possible because additional calcium can become dislodged. The treatment maneuvers remove the calcium but do not prevent the shedding of additional calcium crystals in the future.
BPPV has been identified as a clinical entity since the late 1800s. The term benign means that the disorder is not progressive and is not considered serious. Although labeled benign, BPPV can disrupt a person's daily activities and affect quality of life. The term paroxysmal means that episodes arise suddenly and often unpredictably. The term positional means the disorder is contingent on a change of the position of the head. BPPV is one of the most common causes of vertigo.
Please note that some of these organizations may provide information concerning certain conditions potentially associated with this disorder.
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