Cleburne resident Garland Hunt had been walking into walls for 10 years, suffering from severe dizziness. But he had been walking into walls figuratively, too, as he sought help from doctor after doctor to no avail. Until he found Dr. Benke, ENT.
“I couldn’t drive,” Hunt said. “I was sick as a dog the day I went to see Dr. Benke. In minutes, I walked out fine. Other doctors said to live with it. Dr. Benke gave me a miracle.”
Dr. Benke, a board certified otolaryngologist [Ear, Nose & Throat specialist] in practice in Cleburne since 2000, said Hunt’s dizziness was caused by a relatively common condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), which affects thousands of people each year.
He said many patients come in saying they have vertigo or dizziness, but Benke pointed out those are symptoms, not a disease.
“What we have to determine is why they have it,” he said. “We do a series of tests to make the determination whether the dizziness is coming from an inner ear or a central nervous system abnormality.”
Benke said in most cases, the cause is BPPV—a sensation of unsteadiness or that one’s surroundings are moving. A person may even find it hard to stand or walk without losing his balance. The good thing, Benke said, is that it usually only lasts a minute or two, but he added it can be mild, or it can be bad enough to make you feel sick to your stomach and vomit.
Benke said BPPV can occur when the patient moves his head in a certain direction, lies down from an upright position, turns over in bed or sits up in the morning.
It can also occur when the patient moves his head to look up, such as from reading the paper, or when driving and looking down to change the radio station and then back up again.
“That can be very dangerous,” Benke said. “I had a patient who said she had that experience while driving 60 m.p.h. on I-20, and she could hardly hold on to the steering wheel to pull over to the side of the road.
“Although BPPV can be frustrating for patients, it is rarely serious and can often be treated during an office visit,” Benke said. “And, for most patients, one treatment session is curative.”
It was for Garland Hunt.
He said that’s because vertigo usually results from a problem with free floating calcium crystals in the ear that move with changes in the position of the head. In certain positions, these crystals can irritate the nerve endings in the inner ear associated with balance, giving a false signal of movement and a brief sensation of spinning.
Most patients are better with head exercises that they do at home. For those who don’t improve, Benke offers the Epley maneuver, which he performs in his office, to help reposition loose calcium crystals in the portion of the inner ear that sends balance information to the brain. During the maneuver, each position is held for about 30 seconds and the Mayo Clinic says the success rate for the Epley maneuver is as high as 90-95 percent.
“ Yes, I move crystals around,” Benke said. “It may sound weird, but it works!”
He said the most common risk factor for BPPV is aging, however, he said it can also occur after a blow to the head.
So if you’re one of the many people who suffers from dizziness or balance problems, it could be BPPV—the number one cause of vertigo.
Call 817-641-3750 for an appointment at the new Hearing & Balance Center at Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic. Their office is located in Cleburne at 203 Walls Dr., suite 101, in the Walls Professional Building, next to the hospital.