Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Vertigo is a feeling of movement or spinning when you are still. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) happens when the vertigo is caused by changes in the position of the head. This might include standing after bending down, turning the head in bed, or extending the neck to look up. People with BPPV can often identify which moves cause the most problems.

  • Causes

    The inner ear contains tiny crystals. These crystals can sense movement and help you keep your balance. BPPV occurs because of a shift in location of these crystals or the clumping of these crystals. When this happens, your brain gets signals that you are moving when you are really not moving. This causes the feeling of movement.

    Inner Ear
    Inner ear deposits
    The clump of ear crystals can lead to BPPV.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    In some cases, the cause of BPPV is unknown. In others, it may be caused by:

    • Head injury
    • Viral infection
    • Disorders of the inner ear
    • Prolonged immobility of the head
    • Age-related changes to inner ear

  • Definition

    Vertigo is a feeling of movement or spinning when you are still. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) happens when the vertigo is caused by changes in the position of the head. This might include standing after bending down, turning the head in bed, or extending the neck to look up. People with BPPV can often identify which moves cause the most problems.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Part of the process will be to eliminate other disorders. Your doctor may recommend tests to help determine the cause of vertigo symptoms. Tests may include:

    • Dix-Hallpike maneuver—moving your head or body in certain ways to test response
    • MRI
    • Electronystagmography (ENG)

  • Prevention

    BPPV can't be prevented.

  • Risk Factors

    Increasing age increases your chances of getting BPPV.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:

    • Sensation of spinning or rotation when you change head position that last less than one minute
    • Loss of balance
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear
    • Vision or hearing problems

  • Treatment

    Many times BPPV can resolve on its own, usually within months of onset. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following: