The most common form of vertigo is benign positional vertigo (BPV). BPV is a sensation similar to spinning and can be triggered by tilting your head up or down, turning over, lying down or getting up. If you have BPV, you may experience brief episodes of dizziness.
BPV is caused by disturbances of the vestibular system in the inner ear. Within the vestibular system are semicircular canals that contain fluid. The fluid moves against sensory receptors that tell your brain when your head is making rotational movements. BPV occurs when crystals of calcium carbonate clog the semicircular canals because the vestibular system then sends mixed messages to the brain about the body’s position.
Although the most common symptom of BPV is dizziness or a “spinning” sensation, other symptoms include vomiting, blurred vision, nausea, lightheadedness and loss of balance. Generally, symptoms last less than a minute, but sometimes the symptoms can come and go. Abnormal eye movements called nystagmus can also accompany BPV.
BPV is diagnosed by a test called the Dix-Hallpike maneuver where your head is held in a certain position while you lie down quickly. Eye movements are monitored and you are asked to describe your symptoms. The doctor may also complete a physical exam and collect a medical history.
There are several treatment options for BPV. One option is called the Epley maneuver, which is often said to be the most effective treatment option. The Epley maneuver involves moving in a way that dislodges the calcium carbonate crystals from the inner ear. Certain medications may also be used to relieve the sensation of spinning such as sedative-hypnotics, anticholinergics and antihistamines. Home treatments such as sitting down when you feel dizzy, avoiding triggering behaviors and being aware of your surroundings can help prevent injury.