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Inner Ear Problems: Causes of Dizziness (Vertigo)

Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV)

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This is the most common cause of vertigo. BPV (also called benign positional paroxysmal vertigo or BPPV) results when crystals in the canals shift into the wrong position. Episodes usually occur when the head is moved in a certain way. This can happen when turning in bed, bending, or looking up. BPV:

  • Causes episodes of vertigo that last for seconds. These episodes can occur several times a day, depending on body position.

  • Doesn’t cause hearing loss.

  • Often goes away on its own, but may go away sooner with treatment.

Infection or Inflammation

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Sometimes the semicircular canals swell and send incorrect balance signals. This problem may be caused by a viral infection. Depending on the cause, hearing can be affected (labyrinthitis) or can remain normal (neuronitis).Infection or inflammation:

  • Causes episodes of vertigo that last for hours or days. The first episode is usually the worst.

  • Can cause hearing loss.

  • Often goes away on its own, but may go away sooner with treatment.

Meniere’s Disease

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Although uncommon, this condition happens when there is too much fluid in the canals. This causes increased pressure and swelling, and affects balance and hearing signals. Meniere’s disease may:

  • Cause episodes of vertigo that last for hours.

  • Cause fluctuating hearing problems, usually in one ear, that worsen over time.

  • Cause buzzing or ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

  • Cause a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.

  • Go away on its own. However, vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and ear fullness can last a lifetime.

Online Medical Reviewer: Early, Stephen V, MD, FACS
Online Medical Reviewer: Engel, Thomas L, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2012
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