I finally got to the ENT to see about getting tubes in my ears. Little did I realize that the main cause of all my dizziness was actually Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). A person can get dizzy just trying to pronounce that word, huh? BPPV is caused when things like an infection or inflammation stop the tiny calcium "stones" inside the inner ear from moving as they should and then sends a false message to the brain and affects your balance. These stones help maintain your balance. Normally, when we stand up or turn our heads, these stones move around – but, it the movement is blocked, BPPV can occur. Although rare, BPPV can occur in both ears. Wouldn't you know it....I've got it in BOTH ears!
It is not unusual for me to have 2-4 inner ear infections a year, and with my seasonal allergies - fluid behind my ear is a chronic problem. Because I had been to the doctor a week ago, and placed on antibiotics for the ear infection - the ENT saw no fluid in my ears. As we began to discuss my symptoms, he told me that he was going to test me for BPPV. Having had a treatment for BPPV before, I knew what was coming and I was NOT happy.
Basically, the doctor looks for (1) Signs and symptoms of dizziness that are prompted by eye or head movements and then decrease in less than one minute, (2) Dizziness with specific eye movements that occur when you lie on your back with your head turned to one side and tipped slightly over the edge of the examination bed, (3) Involuntary movements of your eyes from side to side (nystagmus) and (4) Your ability to control your eye movements.
Here's how it works: You sit on a table with your legs stretched out in front of you. The doctor has you turn your head to the left and, keeping your eyes open, begin to lay down on the table. When you are finally flat on the table, your head is hanging off the end of the table and the dizziness hits a new level. While the doctor is holding your head in one hand, he tells you to focus on his finger (which is about 2" up toward the ceiling). Dear Jesus, to keep from vomiting all over the place....all I could do was cry. I kept trying to close my eyes, and he kept telling me to keep them open. That was the longest 20 minutes of my life!
Thankfully, no surgery is required. The treatment for BPPV is a series of movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure. This procedure consists of several simple and slow maneuvers for positioning your head. The goal is to move particles from the fluid-filled semicircular canals of your inner ear into a tiny bag-like open area (vestibule) that houses one of the otolith organs (utricle) in your ear where these particles don't cause trouble and are more easily reabsorbed. Each position is held for about 30 seconds after any symptoms or abnormal eye movements stop. This procedure is usually effective after one or two treatments. I'm told I get the privilege of having at least two treatments. Lucky me!
Two hours later, I am finally on my way home. The next few days after this procedure you have to sleep with you head elevated, making sure that your ears don't fall below shoulder level. This allows time for the particles floating in your labyrinth to settle into your vestibule and be reabsorbed by the fluids in your inner ear.