This simple question could lead to remedy for older people’s dizziness and impaired balance

In a new study, researchers found that one simple question effectively identifies whether a person suffers from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which is harmless and treatable.

The question is: Does lying down or turning over in bed make you feel dizzy?

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Gothenburg.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is common, and often undiagnosed, among senior citizens.

It the most frequent cause of vertigo arising from the balance organs of the inner ear. It is due to otoliths (crystals) from the inner ear loosening and being displaced.

The symptoms are dizziness resulting mainly from a change of position. Many people with BPPV also experience unsteadiness when they stand and walk.

Although these symptoms are not life-threatening, those affected are at an elevated risk of feeling unsteady and accidentally falling when they walk.

The remedy for BPPV is maneuver treatments, often performed by a physical therapist, with the aim of restoring the otoliths to their proper place.

The technique involves turning and spinning the patient’s whole body, and it varies according to which semicircular canal, on which side of the body, is affected.

The purpose of the study is to boost knowledge of older people’s dizziness and unsteady gait, focusing on BPPV.

One of the experiments described in the paper comprised 149 patients—96 women and 53 men —referred for ENT treatment because of dizziness.

In conjunction with being examined, each patient filled in a questionnaire composed of 15 questions.

The question most clearly connected with the diagnosis of BPPV was the one about whether the patient felt dizzy on turning over in bed.

The team says three of ten people aged 70 and over are estimated as suffering from dizziness and impaired balance.

Vertigo at age 75 is more common in women than men, but by age 79 this gender difference has disappeared.

Among the 79-year-olds examined, more than half had dizziness and four of ten had suffered accidental falls in the past year.

People with dizziness take more medications, are more tired, walk more slowly, are more afraid of falling, and have worse self-rated health than people without it.

The lead author of the study is Ellen Lindell, is a specialist ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor at Södra Älvsborg Hospital in Borås.

The study was presented at Sahlgrenska Academy.

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