Ask DAN: Vertigo

I was recently diagnosed with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

I’m seeing a physical therapist to resolve the vertigo and move the otoliths (crystals) out of my inner-ear canals. If my symptoms are resolved, and I am not experiencing vertigo, do you know of any pressure-related issues concerning BPPV that I should be aware of while diving?

With BPPV, diving is not recommended for anyone with this condition. Certain head and neck movements while on deck, entering and leaving the water, and during the dive may provoke another episode and result in serious injury. It’s a good idea to consider the risk of incapacitation from a sudden onset of vertigo, the danger of which increases exponentially in the underwater environment.

Additionally, the symptoms of BPPV can resemble those seen in serious medical conditions such as DCS and lead to an inappropriate or incorrect diagnosis of an underlying condition, which may result in improper treatment. BPPV symptoms may be debilitating or incapacitating, so a diver needs to consider the risks to themselves and others around them should they require assistance.

Before diving, a physician trained in dive medicine should evaluate your condition and carefully explain the risks.

Have a Medical Question? Send an email to Medic@DAN.org, and visit World.DAN.org for more diving health and safety information.

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