Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms vertigo and dizziness can cause lightheadedness and spinning sensation. Vertigo is a sensation of being spun around, stopping, and having the residual feelings of spinning even if you are not moving. Vertigo can be experienced by anyone, but it is found to be a common symptom in multiple sclerosis affecting nearly 20 percent of patients.
Vertigo is not permanent and may come and go, but fortunately it does not necessarily mean that a new brain lesion has formed as it often does not have an MS-related cause. Unfortunately, though, vertigo may be a sign of a brain lesion growing.
Causes of vertigo and dizziness in multiple sclerosis
There are numerous reasons as to why a patient may experience vertigo, some are related to multiple sclerosis and others not. One cause for vertigo and dizziness in multiple sclerosis is a lesion on the cerebellum, which causes damage to the nerves that control vestibular functions in the ear.
A common cause of vertigo in multiple sclerosis is benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV), which is a cause on its own and not a result of demyelination. BPPV is caused by debris – which are crystals of calcium carbonate – collected in specific parts of the ear canal that affect the vestibular system. These crystals form and attach to the tiny hairs in your ear, but when you move your head these crystal can dislodge and cause the hairs to move, sending false signals to the brain. The confusion of signals results in vertigo.
Vertigo can also be worsened with certain drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis. Some medications that can worsen vertigo are antidepressants used for pain or spasticity drugs.
Other causes of vertigo are high and low blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or even infections like the flu.
Signs and symptoms of vertigo in multiple sclerosis
As mentioned, vertigo is a sensation of spinning – even when you are not in motion. Vertigo sensations may feel like the ground is suddenly rushing upwards, your surroundings are constantly moving, or the room is moving one way, stops, and moves back the other way. In intense cases of vertigo, you may even become nauseous and vomit.
Tips to reduce vertigo in multiple sclerosis
Vertigo can be frustrating to live with as it can create feelings of instability, worry, or even anxiety. There are different strategies you can test out in order to better cope with your vertigo and minimize symptoms. Some tips to reduce vertigo in multiple sclerosis include:
- Review your medications as they can be a possible trigger of vertigo or can be even making it worse. Speak to your doctor about changing your medication if you suspect it is the cause of your vertigo.
- Get a physical examination to determine the underlying cause of your vertigo – it may not be caused by multiple sclerosis at all. Once you uncover the real cause of your vertigo, then the appropriate steps can be made to treat it. For example, if your vertigo is caused by blood pressure issues, you can treat your blood pressure to improve vertigo.
- Once your doctor determines the cause of your vertigo, then they can prescribe specific medications to treat vertigo.
- You can use assistive devices like canes to help increase stability.
- Try acupressure therapy, which targets specific points on the body.
- Jot down the times when you experience vertigo and plan your day around common times that you know you are most likely to experience it.
- Consider vestibular rehabilitation.
- Talk to a chiropractor who may be able to manually manipulate the head to improve dizziness.
- Stay physically active as exercising can help reduce symptoms of vertigo.
Treatment for multiple sclerosis dizziness and vertigo
The mode of treatment you go with depends on the severity of your dizziness and vertigo. For many, an over-the-counter medication against motion sickness is enough to offer quick relief. If vertigo and dizziness are chronic, your doctor may have to prescribe you stronger medications to treat vertigo.
Some natural treatments involve physical therapy, which can help you improve balance to reduce your risk of falls during a spout of vertigo. Working with an occupational therapist may also be useful as they can aid you in moving safely around your home and office, especially during vertigo attacks.
You will also want to ensure your living space is clear of clutter, loose rugs, and other tripping hazards. It may be wise to use an assistive walking device for added support. Lastly, ensure you use handrails when going up and down the stairs and opt for a shower with a chair in case vertigo strikes while you’re bathing.
If vertigo is plaguing you, speak to your doctor, as there could be a very simple fix for your dizziness. In the meantime, try and utilize these tips to help boost your safety and prevent injury as much as possible.
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