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While dizziness, balance, and vertigo are terms that are used interchangeably, there’s actually an hierarchy tree that described the relationship between them as they relate to multiple sclerosis and how you should approach the symptoms.

People that suffer from multiple sclerosis may experience episodes of dizziness and vertigo, with the loss of balance. The former two are common MS symptoms, although they may appear at a later stage, and not in the incipient phase of this condition. Dizziness and vertigo are the main causes of balance problems, which increase the changes of an MS patient falling, or being unable to fulfill their daily tasks. After having been studies intensely, the following bits of information were discovered, and may help you if you’re suffering from any of these three symptoms.

About vertigo

Vertigo is a typical form of dizziness, which is characterized by a spinning sensation. If you like spinning when you were a kid, then you remember the sensation you had when you stopped and the environment felt like it kept moving. The feeling caused by vertigo is very similar to that.


People that suffer from MS will experience dizziness and vertigo as a result of an existing lesion that keeps on growing. It can also be a sign of a new lesion, typically occurring in different parts of the brain. The cerebellum is an area of the brain that help the body control its balance. Inner ear problems can also lead to symptoms of vertigo.

However, some other common causes include: an infection caused by the flu, cardiovascular problems and complication, blood pressure that’s either too low or too high, and ever certain forms of medication.

Benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV)

Short for benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo, BPPV normally occurs when there are calcium carbonate crystals collected in the patient’s ear canal. These will affect the vestibular system and, as an MS patient moves their head, the crystals shift their position, sending false signals to the brain.

Doctor’s role

When experiencing dizziness or vertigo that eventually leads to the loss of balance, it’s important to consult a doctor is order to determine if the aforementioned symptoms are a direct cause of MS. After careful examination, if the doctor concludes that these problems are indeed a result of multiple sclerosis, they may prescribe anti-motion sickness meds. These medications are typically in the form of skin patches or oral tablets, and may solve these issues.

If the doctor determines that these symptoms are chronic, they may prescribe more powerful forms of medication, which typically treat nausea. Short courses of corticosteroids may be a part of the treatment, but they are only prescribed when dizziness and vertigo are severe.

Preparing for the symptoms

An MS patient that experienced vertigo for the first time may be extremely confused about what’s going on. The feeling itself causes disturbance, some people being frightened about this inability to control their surroundings. Because both of these symptoms can be confusing for a patient, nausea and vomiting will normally appear after an episode of vertigo. Another common consequence of dizziness and vertigo is vision impairment. It’s not uncommon for people that experience vertigo to feel like they have trouble standing, walking, lose the ability to focus, have blurred vision, or experience hearing loss episodes.

Balance & vertigo

One of the main risks that a patient is exposed to once vertigo and dizziness make their presence felt, is the risk of falling. This risk is greatly increase if the MS patient is already experiencing different mobility issues, such as difficulty in walking, or fatigue. Some of the way to reduce the risk of falling are: clearing the floors inside the home from any potential tripping hazards, using assistive devices that support the patient when they walk around (canes, wheel chairs, walkers, etc.), installing grab bars or handrails throughout the house, or always having reliable and sturdy objects to lean on in case of dizziness episodes (chairs to sit on, heavy furniture, etc.).


Vertigo is not a constant symptom, which means that it can come and go quite randomly. In such cases, it’s important for the patient to understand when vertigo episodes are more likely to appear, and to understand what they can do to reduce the effects of this problem.

  • Physical therapy has known to help a lot of MS patients, preparing them for unexpected episodes of dizziness. Panic and anxiety often kick in in such situations, so training the patient to stay calm and know what steps to take to stay safe is important.
  • Acupressure therapy is recommended by some MS patients that have found support and relief due to this alternative method of treating the issue.
  • Keeping track of each vertigo and dizziness episode can be of great help. With a detailed diary that specifies when vertigo episodes are more common, including their intensity, can help doctors in prescribing the best remedies and solutions to deal with such an issue.
  • People that are physically active have less chances of being struck by vertigo.

Staying safe

When vertigo kicks in, it’s crucial for the MS patient to take all necessary measures in order to avoid falling or injury.

Staying safe includes:

  • Finding a place to sit down and rest until the dizziness passes.
  • Avoiding going outside or using the stairs as much as possible.
  • Avoiding tilting the head too much into any position.
  • Turning off bright lights and other powerful light sources that may cause any vision-related problems.
  • Turning down TVs, music, or other sources of loud noise, as they can further confuse the patient, increasing the risk of a headache.
  • Avoiding driving during these episodes at all costs.

Also, if you experience a vertigo episode during the night, it’s helpful to get out of bed, turn on a discreet light, and remaining in a still position until the feeling passes. If you notice that these symptoms some back when you lie down, consider resting in a recliner for the time being.


While dizziness, balance, and vertigo are terms that are used interchangeably, there’s actually an hierarchy tree that described the relationship between them. Dizziness is a broad term that’s used to describe the overall sensation, while vertigo is a very typical form of dizziness. The latter can be anything from a fainting sensation, to wooziness or weakness, while vertigo describes the sensation of spinning. Either of these two symptoms can lead to problems in maintaining balance, which causes confusion and loss of equilibrium in MS patients.

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