Biometric Pressure and BPPV

Barometric Pressure and BPPV

Challenging the balance system

Weather happens. Seasons change. Storms of all kinds bear down on us. And with that, the barometric pressure yoyos up and down. 

This can make life pretty miserable for those with inner-ear vestibular disorders and damage. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and is part of the body’s balance apparatus. The faster and the more aggressive air pressure fluctuations are, the more symptomatic “vestibular” people can become. Transitions to Spring and Fall seem to be especially troublesome.

In search of help and a diagnosis

It has been shown that visits to doctors and Emergency Rooms are on the rise during serious barometric pressure changes. As complaints of dizziness, vertigo, nausea and unsteadiness increase, so does the number of BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Postural Vertigo) diagnoses.  

BPPV is a very common cause for dizziness and also vertigo – the infamous false motion sensations that can send the world into wild spins. BPPV is brought on by changes in head position. It is believed that “ear rocks” of the inner-ear balance system become displaced. They wander off into spaces where they do not belong thus setting off the dizziness, nausea, unsteadiness and often vertigo that characterize BPPV. 

So, how does barometric pressure contribute to this? Might the “pumping action” of air pressure ups-and-downs destabilize the organs that house the ear rocks and let them escape as the head moves? The exact relationship is not known. But statistics of people feeling ill and seeking help indicate that there is a connection. 

Once a dizziness or spinning attack has set in, it is often hard to pinpoint a definite diagnosis. However, in the case of BPPV the doctor can usually determine which ear might cause the problem by observing involuntary eye movements (nystagmus) as specific head positions are performed. 

If BPPV is the issue, special head maneuvers (Epley) can coax the rocks out of the spaces where they cause problems. Once diagnosed, people can learn how to treat their BPPV attacks at home. The important thing is to get a diagnosis and to recognize that dizziness of any degree is not normal. 

If BPPV cannot be diagnosed, then the probing and search for answers continue.


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