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.