BPPV leads to falls in the elderly

BPPV leads to falls in the elderly. BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is a common cause of vertigo and dizziness in patients. It is often referred to as “loose crystals” in the ear by physicians. In especially the elderly population, BPPV increases the risk of falling.

BPPV leads to falls in the elderly
BPPV leads to falls in the elderly

BPPV is the most common form of vertigo, originating from the ear.  In the United States an estimated 5.6 million visits to the clinic per year are for dizziness. Between 17% and 42% of patients with vertigo will ultimately be diagnosed with BPPV. In one study 9% of urban dwelling elders were found to suffer from BPPV. It is more common in females and patients between 50 and 70 years of age.

BPPV is characterized by sudden, usually short lasting rotational vertigo induced by changing in head position. It limits quality of life and patients develop fear of certain positions, certain maneuvers and often find themselves avoiding sleeping on a specific side. BPPV leads to balance problems and an increase risk of falling. Fortunately, it can be managed successfully without surgery in most patients.

The evaluation of patients with BPPV should always include an assessment of the risk for falling.  When diagnosed with BPPV or “loose crystals” one should be aware of the increased risk for falling which may lead to fractures and other injuries. With such a diagnosis, and even the suspicion thereof it is strongly advocated to determine your fall risk. If you have fallen in the past year, injured yourself or worry about falling you should contact your physician.

Completing a questionnaire to determine a fall risk will help your physician in managing the problem. Examples of questionnaires and tools include the Get Up and Go Test, the  Tinetti Balance Assessment and the Berg Balance Scale. These can be downloaded by following the link.

Fall risk assessment