Suffering from dizziness, nausea and poor balance? These could be symptoms of a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), one of the most common causes of vertigo.
During National Balance Awareness Week (September 16 - 22), Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital is raising awareness of the causes of vertigo and the treatment options available to defeat dizziness.
Integrated clinical services manager at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, Susan Mulligan, says: "BPPV is the most common cause of dizziness in people over the age of 65. It causes episodes of vertigo when you move your head in certain directions, for example looking up and down, bending forwards, rolling over in bed and crossing the road. The short attacks usually last from seconds up to a few minutes but can be very intense and persistent."
During an attack, sufferers may experience brief nystagmus, where your eyes are unable to focus and move uncontrollably. An attack is often accompanied by nausea, although vomiting is unusual, and followed by lightheadedness and a loss of balance, which can last for several minutes or in some cases even hours.
Susan explains the causes of BPPV: "The inner ear includes the cochlea, semicircular canals and otolith organs. The semicircular canals sense head movements and help to control balance and posture. The otolith organs contain calcium carbonate crystal. If the crystals break off from the lining of the channels in your inner ear this causes the affected canal to become sensitive to changes of head position, which are related to gravity."
These movements send confusing messages to the brain, causing vertigo. BPPV may occur for no apparent reason, or it may develop after:
• An ear operation
• an ear infection
• an injury to the head
• prolonged bed rest
BPPV can often go away on its own after several weeks or months without any treatment, but if persistent a simple corrective manoeuvre may be required to cure it. This treatment involves turning the head into a series of positions over a few minutes, using gravity to move the debris away from where it is causing problems. Some studies report that this manoeuvre (Epley manoeuvre) is successful in stopping symptoms in 8 out of 10 cases with a single treatment. If the first treatment does not work, there is still a good chance that it will work in a repeat treatment session later.
For an initial assessment and treatment contact the Physiotherapy Department at Nuffield Health on 01202 702813.