Multiple sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin protein in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is the main component of the protective sheath that insulates nerve cells.
When the immune system targets myelin, it causes inflammation and permanent damage to the nervous system, preventing the effective transmission of nerve signals. This results in a wide range of symptoms, including dizziness and vertigo.
What are dizziness and vertigo?
Dizziness can be used to describe a range of sensations that include feeling light-headed, faint, off-balance, and disoriented.
Vertigo is a more severe form of dizziness and is characterized by an intense sensation of spinning, which can lead to balance and vision problems, light-headedness, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting.
In multiple sclerosis, dizziness and vertigo can be caused by damage to nerves or a lesion in the area of the brain that coordinates various signals to maintain balance or equilibrium.
Dizziness and vertigo can cause significant issues with balance, increasing the risk of injury from falls.
How are dizziness and vertigo treated?
The symptoms of dizziness and vertigo may be treated by a physiotherapist, who may be able to determine which positions trigger the symptoms, and then work with the patient to build up a resistance to this with a personalized exercise program. For example, in some patients vertigo symptoms may be triggered by lying down. Physical therapy may improve balance and coordination, and exercise may help reduce symptoms of dizziness and vertigo.
An occupational therapist may be able to recommend methods to increase patients’ safety when a vertigo attack occurs, such as removing rugs to reduce the risk of falls and installing handrails.
Oral medications to treat motion sickness often help reduce the symptoms of vertigo. These include:
- Antihistamines, such as Antivert (meclizine), Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), and Benadryl (diphenhydramine).
- Benzodiazepine antidepressant medications, such as Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
In extreme cases when vertigo is accompanied by vomiting, oral medications may not be a viable option. High-dose corticosteroids, delivered directly into the bloodstream alongside fluids to replenish the body following vomiting, may be used short-term because these also can reduce inflammation in the nervous system and causes the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
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.