Vertigo: Why Tiny Crystals May Be Making You Dizzy

There are many causes of vertigo, which is the medical term used to describe dizziness and feeling like the room is spinning. Too much alcohol, dehydration and even the common cold may cause these sensations. If dizziness continues to occur, or does not resolve itself, it may be the fault of tiny crystals inside your ear.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a leading cause of dizziness. Here's what you need to know if you or someone you love is having problems with their balance due to dizziness:

BPPV happens due to wandering otoconia.

The cause of BPPV is misplaced crystals inside the ear. These crystals, called otoconia, brush against sensitive nerve endings in the ear and tell your body key information about the ways your head moves. This information is used by the body to keep you upright and balanced.

Sometimes the otoconia move to other areas in the ear that affect balance, causing blockages that disrupt the body's ability to adjust to sudden movements. They are often forced into other areas by sudden head movements or head trauma.

Older people and athletes are at risk of BPPV.

Otoconia will be displaced due to a number of factors. One of those is degeneration of the inner ear, which is a normal part of the aging process. While medications and disease often cause vertigo, older patients with dizziness may simply be suffering from BPPV.

Athletes are also susceptible to BPPV, since a sudden concussive blow to the head may cause displacement of the crystals. If you're suffering from vertigo and you've had a recent head injury or other trauma to your body, it's a good idea to visit a neurology clinic to rule out BPPV.

Treatments are available for BPPV.

One common therapy used to treat BPPV is the canalith repositioning procedure. The idea behind this therapy is to move the crystals from where they're not wanted into another area of the ear where the body will absorb them.

Patients undergoing the canalith repositioning procedure are asked to hold still for a brief time in each of a series of movements and maneuvers designed to loosen and move the otoconia. After therapy, the ear must remain above the shoulder, and patients are asked to sleep with their heads on a slight incline to help drain the ear.

Therapy may need to be repeated a time or two, but 80% of patients find relief with canalith repositioning maneuvers.

Your neurology services and treatment clinic performs treatments for many causes of vertigo. Don't suffer with dizziness which might cause you to fall or have an accident. Seek help from qualified experts in the diagnosis and treatment of vertigo.