Dizziness and Vertigo in Multiple Sclerosis

About 1 in 3 people with MS say they feel “dizzy” from time to time. "Dizzy" is a general term that people use to describe a number of different symptoms. Vertigo is a specific type of dizziness where you feel that either you or the space around you is spinning. This might upset your balance or make you sick to your stomach.

In most cases, vertigo happens because of conditions that affect your inner ear. Doctors call this peripheral vertigo. When brain conditions like multiple sclerosis cause the condition, they call it central vertigo.

Dizziness could also mean that you:

  • Can’t keep your balance
  • Are lightheaded
  • Feel like you're about to pass out

In some cases, you might actually pass out. Talk to your doctor if this happens.

Causes of Dizziness and Vertigo With MS

It usually happens because of a lesion around your brainstem or on the small brain structure above it called the cerebellum, which helps control your balance.

A new lesion could bring vertigo. An older lesion that grows can do it, too. Any lesions that disrupt the pathways of the signals that help you keep your balance may make you dizzy.

The cause of your dizziness or vertigo may be something other than your MS, including:

Treatments for Dizziness and Vertigo With MS

Your doctor can help control your symptoms with medication for motion sickness. If that doesn’t help or if your symptoms are more serious, they might prescribe corticosteroids.

If your vertigo lasts hours or days, and comes with other symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist who can show you a series of movements that might make you feel better. They can also teach you ways to stay safe whenever you feel dizzy. This usually happens with peripheral vertigo.

Dizziness and vertigo can raise your chances of injury from falls, especially if you’re already weak, tired, and shaky from your MS.

But there are some things you can do to lower your chances of getting hurt around the house. You should:

  • Remove anything you might trip on, like rugs
  • Use a chair in the shower. (Some are specially made for this.)
  • Keep a cane or walker handy.
  • Install handrails in your house.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on August 10, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

ACP Internist: “Differentiating ‘dizziness' and vertigo.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Dizziness.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dizziness.”

MS Focus Magazine: “Dizziness and Vertigo in MS.”

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: “Dizziness (vertigo).”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Vertigo,” “Dizziness and Vertigo.”

NHS Inform: “Vertigo,” “Dizziness (lightheadedness).”

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