Was It Vertigo That Sent Me Tumbling the Other Day?

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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In the four decades I’ve lived with MS, I’d never before experienced a serious case of vertigo. I’ve occasionally felt a little spacey. In fact, mild dizziness while traveling home from a business convention is one of the things that led to my MS diagnosis in 1980.

But vertigo is more serious than being just a little dizzy. It feels like the world is spinning around you. For someone with multiple sclerosis, it can be caused by lesions in the parts of the central nervous system that affect equilibrium.

For 40 years, I hadn’t thought much about vertigo. Dizziness is a common MS symptom, but according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, vertigo is not. My balance has always been close to normal. During my annual neurological exam, I’m able to stand with my feet close together, hold my arms straight out, and close my eyes — you know that test — without teetering. It wasn’t until today that I experienced the serious spinning that I self-diagnosed as vertigo.

Uh, oh, down I go

I’d parked my mobility scooter and was about to head to where my car was parked, about 30 steps away. Before taking my first step, I bent forward at my waist to reach down to turn on my Bioness L300 GO, a functional electronic stimulator I wear below my left knee. Suddenly, the world spun. Despite holding a cane in each hand, down I went.

I take three or four spills a year, but they’re all because I trip on something or do something stupid, like trying to hold on to my scooter while goosing its throttle. But this was neither a trip nor a stupid slip. This was a spin.

I’m OK — no injury, no foul, but why today? What was different?

Maybe it wasn’t my MS

The U.K.’s National Health Service notes that an inner ear infection can cause vertigo. So can vestibular neuronitis, which is inflammation of the nerve that runs between the inner ear and the brain. Or, it might be a case of benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo, in which tiny calcium crystals collect in the ear and can disrupt balance signals that are sent from the ear to the brain. Multiple Sclerosis News Today columnist Tamara Sellman had that happen to her a few years ago.

Tamara solved her vertigo problem by using a simple procedure suggested by her neurologist, called canalith repositioning, which relocates those crystals from the inner ear to a different part of the ear, where they can be absorbed.

If my problem continues, I’ll contact my neurologist and see what she has to say. For now, I’ll bet this was a once-in-40-years occurrence, and since I’m almost 73, it won’t have an opportunity to bother me again.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Linda Blacker avatar

Linda Blacker

I've had MS since I was 24yrs old. I'm now almost 65yrs . I've had balance and dizziness issues since 5 to 6 hrs ago. I broke my right hip last june 2020. I've been told by my neurologist it's because of my MS.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your comments. I hope your neurologists also gave you some suggestions to help with your balance and dizziness, in addition to telling you that it's MS-related.

Regards,

Ed

Reply
Alex Ehrlich avatar

Alex Ehrlich

I also had a vertigo attach and they gave me an mri to see if it was due to new lesions. It wound up being caused my my neck vertebra going out. Apparently if C1 goes out it can cause the same problem. You might see a chiropractor to see if that helps cure it.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your suggestion. It's amazing how many problems occur because of nerves being compressed along our spinal column. My wife, a retired physical therapist, reminds me of that all the time.

Ed

Reply
Ronnie Perry avatar

Ronnie Perry

This was very interesting to me. I have PPMS effecting primary the right side of my body & my energy is about 25%. I’m good for around 2 to 3 hours in the mornings & then I’m done. But I’m dizzy most all the time, not to the extent that I can’t stand or walk a short distance but my balance makes me look like I’m drunk. I’m going to talk to my doctor about canalith repositioning. I can & have been living with the dizziness but I would prefer it to be gone.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Ronnie,

Many people with MS have that intoxicated-like balance and I'm sorry you're one of them. There's a Facebook group called "We're Not Drunk, We Have MS." That's also the name of a book that I wrote :-).

I hope you're successful in finding a way to improve your balance.

Regards,

Ed

Reply
Annie avatar

Annie

You have my sympathy, sir, as I have had two "major" episodes of vertigo. One was much more alarming than the second one, but both really left a memorable impression on me to the point that I live in fear of a recurrence. Those two happened about a year apart in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Since then, on rare occasion, I will feel "twinges" of dizziness but so far no full-bore vertigo. Even in comparison to many other worrisome (to put it mildly) health concerns and conditions, I have found vertigo to be an absolutely terrifying experience. When I saw a doctor after the first, and worst, episode, he told me flatly that it would recur, and he implied that it was inevitable! (contributed to the ongoing fear of that proving true).
It is a terrible experience and I really feel for the folks who deal with it often and persistently, even constantly. How does one live with that?
I think human ears and the structures around them get far too little sophisticated medical attention. What is now ENT used to be EENT (from eye/ear/nose/throat to ear/nose/throat) and I think EENT makes more sense.
Anyway, my sympathy and good wishes for you to never have a recurrence.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Annie,

I appreciate your sympathy. Fortunately, the dizziness eased quickly has not re-appeared (knock wood). After 40 years with MS I know to always expect the unexpected.

Regards,

Ed

Reply
Sidni Totten avatar

Sidni Totten

I have occasional episodes of MS related ‘vertigo’. I was told it is not true vertigo. That is rare with MS but a
loss of proprioception. The sense of one’s position in space is like a 6th sense. I believe it’s related to inflammation
in some of the nerves that inform your sense of posture & place. I have had trigeminal neuralgia & some optic
nerve issues. These are common in MS. Some of the same nerves are involved in informing your sense of
Proprioception. As it was explained to me, true vertigo is a merry go round sensation while loss of proprioception
is more like standing on a train platform & seeing the world race by like an express train. It’s a very subtle difference
but which sensation you’re feeling depends on which mechanism is being disrupted. Neither is very pleasant.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Sidni,

Thanks for taking the time to share that information. My experience was more like the merry go round. Fortunately, it resolved itself very quickly.

Ed

Reply
JILLY avatar

JILLY

Hi everyone. I had vertigo once early in the morning and I had to get myself to the washing tub or a bucket, I felt like I was going to through up. That was the worst I ever got from that. Just now and again I get a little dizzy getting out of bed.

Jilly PPMS.

Reply
Linda Blacker avatar

Linda Blacker

Thankyou for your reply my neurologist says ms causes vertigo. As it's not true vertigo nothing can be done. I've had balance dizziness issues for about six yrs now. Had ear ache in my left ear on and off for a few months now. Tried to talk to my dr but cant even get an appointment. Saw my neurologist a few months back. I've changed my drs. So it seems making an appointment with him or her is the next idea. Thankyou I will let you know how I get on cheers

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