Inner ear crystals, technically known as otoconia, are tiny calcium carbonate crystals located within the otolith organs of the ear. The inner ear crystals and otolith organs help sense movement and gravity relative to the position of your head. Ear crystals occasionally become dislodged from the otolith organs and enter an ear canal, where they cause dizziness and a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. BPPV is not a serious condition; it can be successfully treated, and its symptoms can be minimised or even prevented with treatment.
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Wear protective head gear during activities where a head injury is possible, such as biking, skiing, white-water rafting, riding a motorcycle and many others. BPPV may be caused by head injuries and, while there are no specific measures to prevent inner ear crystals from becoming dislodged, protecting your head is a common sense precaution.
Avoid activities that create harsh, abrupt movements of the head, as they may trigger BPPV. This is particularly important as you get older. The natural ageing process itself may contribute to the development of BPPV, which would only be worsened by abrupt motion.
Keep away from second-hand smoke and avoid people who are sick. Take decongestants or allergy medication when you feel congested. BPPV may be caused by viral infections of the inner ear, so this preventive care is one more measure you can take to thwart inner ear crystals from dislodging.
Discuss medication and treatment options with your doctor if you have dizziness that you think may be due to BPPV. A physician will diagnose your condition based on tests that determine if dizziness is due to specific eye and head movement, as well as the presence of unintentional movement of the eyes. For further diagnosis, a physician may order an MRI, ENG or VNG. Depending on the severity of your inner ear crystals, your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments ranging from medication, to therapy, to surgery, for the rare extreme case.
Lie down on your side until symptoms subside if you do experience dizziness, and avoid any situation that brings on a dizzy feeling until you can see a physician. Because the exact cause of BPPV is often unknown, it's important to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist if experiencing symptoms of BPPV. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's very easy to lose your balance with inner ear crystals, which can lead to serious harm. Make sure to walk very slowly when required to move and, if necessary, use a walking stick.
Tips and warnings
- Along with inner ear crystals, Meniere's disease, inner ear conditions, vestibular migraines and many other conditions can cause dizziness. A specialist will be able to identify your condition.
- Limit your intake of salt, caffeine and alcohol to see if this helps your dizziness to subside. People with Meniere's disease are known to be sensitive to dietary changes, so improvement due to these changes could be a clue to the cause of your condition.
- While inner ear crystals are not a serious condition, your dizziness could be caused by a bigger problem. See a qualified physician immediately if your dizziness is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms.
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