Stopping the spins

It turns out that alcohol is much less dense than the fluid of the inner ear.  If you drink a lot of alcohol over a short period of time, it can enter the cupula quickly through the bloodstream.  This lightens the cupula fairly quickly, in as little as 30 minutes.  The inner ear fluids don’t have a way to pick alcohol up from the bloodstream that fast, but only very slowly adjust over hours until the cupula and the fluids again have matching density. 

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Why does alcohol give me the spins?

We all know drinking alcohol affects the brain, starting with feeling tipsy.  If you’ve ever had a lot to drink in one sitting (remember that 21st birthday party?) you might have noticed another effect.  Drinking too much too fast can cause vertigo that becomes intense when you lie down.  This effect, called the spins, spinners, or bed spins, is caused by a direct effect of alcohol on your inner ear. It’s a mechanical form of vertigo.

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Questions from our readers

After I treat my BPPV with maneuvers, I still feel “woozy” for days/weeks afterward.  No acute vertigo, but light-headedness, and a general “brain fog” malaise which typically greets me each morning but resolves later in the day.  For weeks or months, until I feel really good then “bam”, another BBPV episode that restarts the process.

Is this at all typical?  Drives me nuts!!

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