I’m Dizzy All Day

BPV. Benign Positional Vertigo. The “B for Benign” is reassuring, but the good news stops there.

I woke up on Saturday around 5am and the room was spinning. I know what you are thinking and no, it wasn’t bed spins. The last time I had those was in college, but it felt just like them. After a few minutes, one foot on the floor, I found a manageable position, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I woke up a couple hours later, and there was no improvement. Today is Wednesday, and it is the first day I can look at a  computer. So, for four days, I’ve been on the teacups at Disney with the stomach flu.

I wanted to share a few facts about BPV (see below) in case you ever find yourself in this spinny, twirly predicament. First though, a friendly reminder. Value your health. It is the most important thing you have. On those days you feel tired and cranky and annoyed by your to-do list, think of people who physically cannot manage, and be grateful you can. I am so lucky my kids are older, my friends are nearby and my husband is helpful. I keep thinking about mothers of young children with few resources, who when illness strikes, don’t have the luxury of going back to bed and waiting it out. I have a million things to do, but they can all wait. A couple more days of this though, and I suspect my perspective will be more selfish, but for now, I am happy for the “B for benign” and the help I have. I cannot wait to be able to jump in the shower, get in the car and run boring errands! If you hear me complain, spin me around a few times and remind me of how grateful I am to not be dizzy.

BPV or BPPV (you can throw in another P for Paroxysmal)

BPV happens when small little calcium stones in your inner ear start misbehaving and upset your sense of balance and place in space. When you move your head a certain way, you feel like the room is spinning, you are off balance, and/or nauseous. When it is severe, you may vomit and the sense of vertigo may be more constant.

Eventually, the symptoms go away, but it may take some time. On average, it lasts around two weeks.

Your doctor can prescribe a medications, the most common is called Meclizine, which can help with the symptoms. It is an antihistamine, so side effects are similar to those of cold medicines. Taking them in the long term may actually interfere with improvement, but in the short term, they can provide some relief. Prescription sedatives, like Valium, have also been shown to help in the short term.

Canalith repositioning attempts to rotate the ear canal to get the calcium stones to move to an area of the ear where they can be more quickly absorbed. Think of that toy where you have to move the marble around the maze. Same idea. While this may help, be prepared for a seriously uncomfortable ride if your vertigo is severe.

Balance rehabilitation helps your brain adjust to the injury in the inner ear. It forces you to do exactly what you don’t want to do, which is move your head. Exercises should be started immediately for best results. That ship has sailed for me as I’ve spent the last four days trying to move my head as little as possible.

BPV is an extremely uncomfortable disorder, but again, focus on the the “B for benign,” the promise of improvement and the fact you will be back at the food store before you know it. This is me giving myself a little therapy while I type.

 

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, founder and president of Tips From Town. She loves combining all she learned as a doctor with all she continues to learn as a mom of five to bring you interesting, useful and fun information on the Family Pages.

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