Dizziness from loose crystals in your head

Dizziness from loose crystals in your head

This sounds a bit like the punch line of a bad joke, doesn’t it? But believe it or not, it’s true.

Dizziness can be caused by loose crystals called “otoconia” in your inner ear, which is known as BPPV. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is the most common cause of vertigo, and is also the most common vestibular (inner ear) disorder. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals are displaced from either one or both of the otolith organs of the inner ear and fall down into one of the semicircular canals, disrupting the flow of the fluid of that canal.

What results from that disruption of fluid is essentially a false sense of motion. People with BPPV will most often report experiencing short episodes of severe vertigo with change in head and/or body position, such as turning over in bed or getting up and out of bed, tilting their head back in the shower to wash their hair, or turning their head from side to side while driving. The onset of vertigo can be very sudden and very frightening. And while the classic sign of BPPV is episodic severe vertigo related to changes in head position, many people experience a more mild or low grade constant unsteadiness between attacks or episodes.

Why do those crystals come loose?

About half of the time, the cause is unknown. When the reason can be identified, it is typically the result of a head injury, which can range from mild to severe. Sometimes taking a misstep off the end of a curb is enough to displace one or more otoconia. High intensity aerobics or mountain biking on rough trails can also cause BPPV. Occasionally, BPPV can be secondary to viruses that affect the inner ear, such as vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis, and has also been associated with migraines.

How is BPPV diagnosed?

The diagnosis of BPPV is typically based on case history, physical examination, possibly hearing and vestibular testing or lab work to rule out other diagnoses, and the Dix-Hallpike maneuver which is designed to elicit nystagmus (eye beating) as a result of specific changes in head positions. The involved semicircular canal is revealed through the pattern of nystagmus elicited in the Dix-Hallpike maneuver.

How is BPPV treated?

While BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo, it is also one of the most easily treated. Repositioning maneuvers are completed typically in a health care provider’s office but can sometimes be performed at home as well. The maneuvers incorporate a specific series of head and body movements designed to move the displaced otoconia out of the involved or affected semicircular canal. This series of movements is typically completed in a short period of time, though repetition of the series can sometimes be required. There are several types of repositioning maneuvers, including the Epley maneuver, the Semont, and the Appiani, which are specific to the semicircular canal that is involved.

(You can also find more information on BPPV here.)

For Catherine, you mentioned your oncologist. If you have had chemotherapy, it can cause central brain problems with dizziness and balance problems. They can do physical therapy for your head. It helped me immensely!
11/6/2014 8:50:42 AM
SuAnne White
It's now Nov. and this has been going on since June. I had
a sinus virus in April and of course antibiotics didn't help
much. The symptoms went away eventually but I now have
this vertigo that sometimes gets very bad with the nausea.
I tried the Epley maneuver for 3 mos. Sometimes 4 - 5 times
a day. Then I had an MRI recently that was normal. At this
point if P.T. again won't work I will always blame the virus, or
Perhaps an injury I suffered years ago. Thanks for posting the
Information here. I'm glad to have the info. I now
Know I will never do the surgery. I'm 63 Chalk it up to age!!
11/4/2014 9:30:59 AM
I woke up this morning and the room was spinning. My friend took me to my chiropractor and he said the ear crystals were messed up. He did cranial work and I feel better. The dizziness is gone. That man is my savior!!!
10/30/2014 4:24:03 PM
I have seen my family doctor, who put me on Dramamine twice a day to control (my dizziness was constant for a week, with vomiting when I exerted myself). I have a 3-month follow-up w/my Oncologist on Friday - my family doctor wants me to cover this with her. Also on Friday, I am to stop the Dramamine to see if the dizziness is still there (which it is because I wake up dizzy). If still there, I am to see an ENT. This info on BPPV is incredibly helpful!
9/30/2014 10:22:36 AM
Stacey Watson, MS, CCC-A

Dizziness can manifest itself in many different ways from several different causes. The best way to identify what is truly causing your symptoms is to participate in further assessments. So I’m happy to hear you are going to have the other tests your doctor recommended to help narrow down the cause of your symptoms. Should your testing show results consistent with BPPV, as you suspect, the best person to talk to about head positioning exercises is a trained Physical Therapist. You will want to talk with your doctor about a referral since most insurance carries require a referral for physical therapy services.
7/17/2014 10:47:12 AM
My sister had this condition after a fall. She told me her doctor sprayed very cold air followed by warm air into her ear and that was all it took to correct the problem.
7/16/2014 1:36:34 AM
Well I do have crystals and had it about 7 years ago so bad I ended up with the surgery which was very very unpleasant. Five days ago I suddenly felt the dizziness or which I describe as the spins. I thought..no way is that coming back. I went to my Doctor this morning and yes it is back...he did repositioning and I got stomach sick and feeling horrible ever since. I now have to go back to see the surgeon so just pray I don't need the surgery again/ Do whatever you can to control this without the surgery.
7/15/2014 3:30:42 PM
Gina M Garcia
Is there a doctor who specializes in that head positioning exercise?

I went to a ENT doctor and he said he thought from some of the symptoms that it may be Menieres disease but as Ive been reading on and I've researched extensively I now think it's BPPV. The symptoms and how it occurs mentioned in many explanations of this disorder are exactly what I go through.

I'm still going to take all the test the doctor scheduled for just to be sure and rule out other issues. But I'm almost certain that's the culprit.
7/13/2014 9:11:36 AM
I have vertigo about 3 times a year. I have it now every so often and it seems to tie in with the weather changes. It's very discomforting and I'm scared to death to go through a repositioning. That's the next step in my process; eventually the vertigo goes away without any treatment. I'm in a tough spot. Wish there was another way to treat.
7/9/2014 6:44:45 AM
Mary Anne
I have had repositioinings about eight times. Sometimes the treatments will cure it in two visits but on one occurrence, it took five treatments. The treatments are not pleasant and you don't feel very well for about two days afterward but then, the vertigo goes away. If it doesn't, that means you need another repositioning. If it is not a severe case, you can sleep a lot, move slowly and sometimes it will go away by itself.
6/11/2014 3:57:25 PM
I have this issue often and the first time I have had a clear idea of what I am suffering from even through I have been to an Ear Eye
and Throat specialist.
1/6/2014 8:44:40 AM
barbara cunningham
I found this article very informative as I have experienced vertigo in the past. This has lead to echoing in my right ear, which I have had for the past 4 months. My ENT had me have an MRI and balance test, which didn't show any cause for concern..
11/16/2013 7:37:41 PM