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Suffering From Dizzy Spells After Age 50? Learn More About The Possible Cause And Its Treatment

by Stella Robinson

If you're an adult over the age of 50 who has suddenly developed a pervasive sense of dizziness, there's about a 50% possibility that the problem is a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Learn more about how this condition happens–and the surprising ability of some simple physical therapy procedures that can help it. 

What is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is essentially caused by small crystals of calcium carbonate, called otoconia. These crystals actually serve the purpose of helping signal your brain to guide your sense of up and down. However, when they migrate from their normal location inside the utricle of the ear to another part of the inner ear canals, your brain begins to get confused signals. That triggers your dizziness.

These small crystals can end up out of place as the result of head injuries, inflammatory viruses, and age-related degeneration of the vestibular system. Some people have even experienced the condition after being under general anesthesia for surgery. In many cases, the trigger for the disorder is simply unknown.

While the condition isn't fatal, the symptoms can be highly unpleasant–sufferers can have dizzy spells that are provoked simply by the turn of their head. It can affect your vision, making it impossible for you to keep a steady focus with your eyes. The dizzy spells can also cause nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Chronic sufferers can also experience depression and anxiety, especially since they never know when a dizzy spell might strike.  

How can physical therapy help patients with BPPV?

There are 2 specialized forms of physical therapy designed to deal with BPPV, called the Epley and Semont maneuvers. Of the two, the Epley maneuver is generally more successful. Either procedure can be accomplished within one 10-15 minute session. The goal of the maneuvers is to move the calcium crystals out of the ear canal and back into the utricle where they belong. You may even be taught how to perform the maneuvers on your own or with someone's help, in case the condition reoccurs.

A second type of physical therapy is done in-home, and it's designed to teach your brain to adapt to the faulty message system that is causing the dizziness. This type of therapy might be used if the Epley and Semont maneuvers don't fully relieve your symptoms or if the BPPV reoccurs frequently. The include simple physical exercises (like jumping and turning in circles) and visual exercises (like keeping your eyes focused on a specific target while moving your head from side to side). This type of therapy can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 18 months to complete.

Chronic dizziness from BPPV is a condition that is often treatable with the right therapy. If you're suffering from dizzy spells, there's a good chance that BPPV is the culprit. It's a condition that's often treatable with physical therapy, so talk with your doctor today. Contact a professional, such as one from Urban Wellness Clinic PC, for further assistance.