When you have a dizzy spell that doesn’t quickly go away and recurs when you’re not moving in circles, consider getting tested for vertigo by a leading ear, nose, and throat specialist like Dr. Nancy Becker. Call Dr. Becker’s practice for an appointment at her Enumclaw or Bonney Lake, Washington, offices.

Vertigo Q & A

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is the sudden and recurring feeling of losing your balance seemingly without any reason for the sensation. It’s likely vertigo when you experience spinning or dizziness in your mind without the presence of a physical movement, external force, or chemical substance that could easily explain the perception.

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo is typically due to one of many possible inner ear disorders:

  • Gravity-sensitive calcium carbonate crystals dislodge (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s disease (fluid buildup and pressure changes)
  • Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis (infections inflaming nerves)
  • Injuries to your head or neck
  • Stroke or other brain conditions like tumors
  • Migraines
  • Prescriptions with ear-damaging side effects

The most common kind of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Often caused by a blunt force to your head that knocks motion and balance-detecting particles into your inner ear canals, BPPV is essentially like a malfunctioning gyroscope. You’re most at risk if you’re a male over 50.

What are symptoms of BPPV?

Lasting for up to a minute per episode, BPPV usually presents many recurring symptoms:

  • Spinning inside your head
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting or nausea

How is BPPV diagnosed?

Dr. Becker first tries detecting benign paroxysmal positional vertigo through a series of physical examination tests. She asks you to move your head or eyes in various patterns since that can trigger the onset of symptoms. If you can’t control your eyes or they often involuntarily twitch laterally, those are strong signs of BPPV. She may also order diagnostics like MRIs and irregular eye movement tests using a camera or electrodes if the simple physical exams are insufficient.

How is BPPV treated?

First, Dr. Becker performs a precise maneuver called canalith repositioning, tilting your head into certain orientations that return the dislodged gravity-sensing particles to their rightful place. She holds each corrective position for 30 seconds. If that vertigo treatment isn’t effective after two or three sessions, she may recommend a surgery to insert a bone plug that stops the malfunctioning balance signals in 90% of patients.

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