Air bubbles trapped in a woman’s inner ear caused her to develop severe dizziness, seemingly out of nowhere, and she required surgery to make the disorienting, spinning sensation go away.
The 51-year-old woman initially went to the doctor after experiencing this strange spinning sensation for about 24 hours, according to a report of the case published Thursday (April 21) in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. In addition to feeling as though the room were spinning around her, the woman reported that she felt an unusual blockage or pressure in her right ear and was also experiencing right-sided hearing loss.
The doctors performed a physical examination of the woman’s right ear, but they found no abnormalities. The team then ran the patient through a common test for vertigo, called the Dix-Hallpike test, and found that she exhibited the telltale twitchy eye movements that are often associated with such dizziness.
As an initial treatment, the doctors led the patient through an exercise designed to treat one of the most common forms of vertigo, known as “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo” (BPPV). This condition occurs when tiny crystals inside the inner ear become dislodged from their normal position, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. These crystals, or “ear stones,” typically sit inside a sac-like organ in the ear that detects changes in the head’s orientation, but when the ear stones detach from this organ, they can trigger sensations of dizziness. An exercise called the Epley maneuver can move the ear stones back into their proper place, but in the woman’s case, the exercise didn’t help.
Article originally appeared on Live Science