BPPV in the News

 

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) got its 15 minutes of fame this past weekend. During the nationally televised U.S. Open Golf Tournament, a contender for the title reportedly battled with recurrent vertigo throughout the tournament. From this point on in this blog, it will become increasingly apparent that I do not golf, do not watch golf, and never heard of Jason Day. However, I am familiar with BPPV, and felt it might be worthwhile to pass along what I have gathered from the media outlets.

Day was reportedly evaluated and treated by physicians at Tacoma Ear and Balance Clinic, and his manager announced later in the day that he had been diagnosed with BPPV. It is always interesting to hear a description of a vestibular condition by a reporter without medical or vestibular function training. This reporter from Golf News Net does a pretty good job:

“What causes benign positional vertigo is when a piece of calcium breaks off in the inner ear and gets into the semicircular canals, which are fluid-filled tubes that tell the brain our position relative to the ground. That’s why Day collapsed while walking toward the ninth green. Suddenly, his brain received a signal telling him that he wasn’t actually upright. It caused dizziness and a loss of balance, leading to the fall just shy of the putting surface.”  Watch a YOUTUBE clip of the episode here.

Although Day’s wife told reporters that episodes of dizziness had been an issue for Day for approximately five years, it sounds like the diagnosis of BPPV is recent. In an interview prior to last week’s U.S. Open, Day responded to questions about previous bouts of dizziness:

“I feel good. I had three sleep studies done. I had a lot of blood tests done. I had an MRI on my head and my back and everything came back negative. So I have no idea what that was, other than I just may have been exhausted.”

So, on one hand, I have sympathy for Jason Day. His experience typifies the fear that many vestibular patients experience; that being the fear of an episode interfering with an important event. On the other hand, I am happy he finally got to a vestibular specialist and his BPPV should be more manageable now. As an advocate for effective vestibular care, I can’t  help but notice that he has suffered these episodes for years, apparently without a diagnosis (typical), and underwent blood tests, sleep studies and MRI’s before receiving a diagnosis (expensive, inefficient and typical). Hopefully, the public awareness that is brought on when a public figure experiences an unfamiliar health condition will promote some change in the way patients complaining of dizziness and vertigo are managed.

Photo courtesy of the website Mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Alan Desmond

Dr. Alan Desmond is the director of the Balance Disorders Program at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center, and holds an adjunct assistant professor faculty position at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. In 2015, he received the Presidents Award from the American Academy of Audiology.