Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic immune disease that affects the central nervous system. Some people may experience episodes of dizziness, lightheadedness, or vertigo.
This condition is typically diagnosed between ages 20 and 50, and females are up to
Common symptoms of MS include:
Dizziness and vertigo may both contribute to balance problems, but they’re different sensations.
Keep reading to learn more about their causes, treatments, and how they relate to MS.
Ongoing dizziness and vertigo may interfere with daily tasks, increase your risk of falls, and even become disabling. Although they both have similar and overlapping features, they’re two different sensations.
Dizziness refers to the general feeling of being woozy, lightheaded, or faint. It may cause you to feel off-balance or like you could fall while walking.
Vertigo is an intense, false sensation of yourself or the world spinning around you — even if you’re not moving. The first time you experience this moving sensation can be very unsettling, even frightening.
It’s estimated that
Vertigo and dizziness might sometimes last for hours or even days. They may also be accompanied by other symptoms, including:
Inflammation from MS damages myelin, which is the protective layer that covers the nerve cells.
This process is known as demyelination. It may cause lesions or scar tissue that can interfere with the transmission of nerve signals.
These lesions make it difficult for nerves within the central nervous system to send messages to the rest of the body. This causes symptoms of MS, which vary according to the location of the lesions.
For example, demyelination in the cerebral cortex may cause dizziness or vertigo. This is because the nerve tracts that provide physical balance and feedback about body position travel in the brain stem, and the cerebellum controls balance.
Other factors may also cause vertigo.
Other possible causes of dizziness or vertigo might include:
There’s currently no cure for MS. Your treatment team can create a treatment plan that can help you manage your symptoms of vertigo and improve your quality of life.
Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-motion sickness medications may help manage dizziness and vertigo. These are available as oral tablets or skin patches.
If dizziness or vertigo becomes chronic (long lasting), then a doctor may prescribe more powerful anti-motion sickness or anti-nausea medications.
If an MS exacerbation is causing your vertigo, a doctor may suggest a short course of corticosteroids to help treat the exacerbation.
Physical therapy may also help improve balance and coordination.
When vertigo occurs, certain behaviors might help you feel more safe and comfortable, such as:
- sitting down until it passes
- avoiding moving your head or body position
- turning down bright lights
- avoiding screens and reading
- avoiding stairs
- not driving until you’re sure the vertigo has passed
- moving very slowly when you feel better
If vertigo strikes during the night, try to slowly sit up straight, turn on soft lighting, and remain still until you feel better.
Vertigo may return when you turn the light off and lie down, so a comfortable recliner may help.
The balance issues caused by dizziness and vertigo could increase your chances of injury due to falls. This is especially true for people whose MS symptoms already include trouble walking, weakness, and fatigue.
A few safety measures around the home may help reduce this risk, such as:
- clearing your home of tripping hazards, especially throw rugs
- using a cane or a walker
- installing handrails and grab bars
- using a shower chair
Most importantly, be sure to sit down when you feel dizzy or notice the spins coming on.
Dizziness and vertigo can be symptoms of MS, which is a chronic immune disease that affects the central nervous system.
Speak with a doctor if you experience frequent bouts of dizziness or vertigo. They can help you figure out if MS is the cause of your symptoms and then develop a treatment plan that can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.