Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness that makes sufferers feel as though the world is spinning or that they are extremely unsteady. One of the most common types of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is caused when a person changes the position of his head. It is a middle-ear problem, but one that can be easily treated and managed under a doctor's care.
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There are small crystals inside the inner ear which help control a person's reaction to movement. For reasons such as viral infections, head injuries or nerve damage following ear surgery, these crystals can become dislodged and float into the semicircular canals that contain fluid and help your brain monitor your head's position in relation to the ground. People 60 and older are most likely to be affected by this condition, although positional vertigo can occur for no apparent reason.
Positional vertigo symptoms become more apparent when a person moves his head quickly. This can be as simple as quickly turning the head or standing. The sensation is similar to when a person spins around in a circle repeatedly, including nausea, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, a loss of balance and that the world is continuing to move even when they are stopped.
If you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor will likely ask you a serious of questions designed to decide if there are any clear reasons why you might be experiencing positional vertigo. A common test is the Dix-Hallpike position test, which involves laying on a bed and the doctor moving your head into various positions designed to cause vertigo. The doctor will check for unusual eye movements or "jerky" motions along with vertigo symptoms.
The most common treatment for positional vertigo is a series of movements called the canalith repositioning procedure. This series of slow head manoeuvres is designed to move the dislodged crystals from the ear canals and into otolith organs of the ear, where they can no longer cause balance issues. In rare cases where this does not work, a surgical procedure can take place where a bone plug is inserted into a patient's inner ear to stop the dizziness.
Along with repositioning exercises performed at a doctor's office, a physician might also recommend home exercises to patients in order to speed the recovery process. One of the most common is Brandt-Daroff exercises, which involve the patient laying on his side while tilting the head at an angle and then repeating the exercise on the other side. After a course of treatment lasting two weeks, most patients begin to see significant improvements in their symptoms or have the symptoms disappear completely.
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