Dizziness and Vertigo

Dizziness, a feeling of being off balance or lightheaded, is a common symptom in people with MS. A less common symptom for people with MS is vertigo, which causes the sensation that they or their surroundings are spinning or that the ground suddenly rushes upwards. Vertigo can be exacerbated by lying down or inclining one’s head or in situations where vision cannot be used, such as in a darkened room.

Causes of dizziness and vertigo

The symptoms of dizziness and vertigo result from lesions (damaged areas) on the nerve pathways responsible for transmitting input from the inner ear to the brain for the purpose of maintaining balance or equilibrium. Damage to the eighth cranial nerve, which serves both the balance (vestibular) and acoustic processes of the ear, can cause dizziness or vertigo.

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Are there effective treatments for dizziness?

If dizziness or vertigo become significant problems for you or continue for a long time, your doctor may be able to give you a medication to help resolve the symptom.

Medications for treating motion sickness, including antihistamines such as Antivert® (meclizine), Dramamine® (dimenhydrinate), and Benadryl (diphenhydramine), may be useful, as well as select drugs in the benzodiazepine family, including Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam). A drawback with both antihistamine and benzodiazepine medications is that they can make you feel drowsy. So, you should work with your doctor to find the lowest dosage that resolves your symptoms.

In some cases, niacin, an essential nutrient part of the B vitamin complex that causes blood vessels to dilate, may provide relief from dizziness and vertigo.

In cases where dizziness and vertigo are very severe and vomiting won’t allow use of oral medications, high-dose corticosteroids given with IV fluids may be used to treat the CNS inflammation causing the symptom.

If dizziness or vertigo is linked to specific changes in body position, a physical therapist may be able to offer instruction on exercises for building tolerance and comfort with those position changes.

Since dizziness can result from the flu, treating muscle aches, fever, and other flu symptoms with aspirin and other medications may help to resolve dizziness which is related to the flu.

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Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: May 2015.