Friday, June 4, 2010

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

I have a recurring case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). I can go a year or even more without suffering any of its effects and then wake up one morning and find it difficult to keep my balance. The first time it attacked in the spring of 2005, I was experiencing a tremendous amount of stress and the effects were severe. I could barely stand up. I thought I was having a stroke. My doctor told me in an email I was almost certainly experiencing BPPV. He was right. He prescribed something called Antivert, which it turns out has the same active ingredients as most over the counter motion sickness tablets, and it gradually went away. No one really knows what causes it, something about the crystals in the inner ear loosening and then rattling around until they settle down again. It is not a serious condition and has no worrisome side effects, except, in severe cases, the possibility you will fall down and break a limb. So far, it has never been that bad for me.

On Wednesday morning, I was hit by it again, perhaps for the fifth time since 2005. It wasn't terrible or alarming, the way it was the first time, but when I woke up I realized as I scuttled to the bathroom that I was leaning dangerously to the left. I also felt the slight nausea that usually accompanies the dizziness and is probably the worst part of my version of BPPV. I started taking my motion sickness pills that I now always keep handy, and most of the symptoms dissipated within six hours. Which was great. But BPPV has a lingering effect, with me anyway. I feel a sense of unease that I can't shake easily, and when I bend down or move my head in any unusual way, I can feel just a bit of dizziness start to return. If you have to be sick, it's a good choice, but that sense that it can rear up at any time and throw off your daily routines (such as riding your bike) does leave one feeling unsettled. Oh, well, a continuing pain in my arm, a little BPPV, some accelerating hair loss, if this is what getting older is about, I'll gladly take it, at least so far.

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