While dizziness is often considered to be one of the first symptoms of MS there is a lot of confusion when it comes to differentiating between the term dizziness and vertigo. The big problem here is that people tend to describe the feelings they have in a very subjective way and the feelings that one person is describing under these generic thoughts may not be the same as another person and in fact may not relate to dizziness in multiple sclerosis.
While dizziness in MS is definitely not the only symptom it is considered to be one of the most common symptoms and the most frequently recurring. As multiple sclerosis is the demyelinating of the tissue that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord the symptoms that accompany it tend alternate between exacerbations and remissions, the severity of the exacerbations also tends to vary with each episode.
While only some 5% of all patients show signs of dizziness in the early stage of diagnosis, more than 50% of all MS patients will complain of the feelings of dizziness and vertigo at some point during the disease. At the same time approximately 10% of patients experience hearing loss further exacerbating problems such as vertigo and overall feelings of dizziness.
In the patient with multiple sclerosis, dizziness is described as a feeling of lightheadedness or of feeling faint, whereas vertigo is more of a feeling that the ground is spinning or rushing up to meet you. Dizziness in multiple sclerosis is fairly common where vertigo is relatively rare in patients with MS, according to one particular study less than 20% of all MS patients suffer from vertigo.
There are several different ways to approach treating dizziness in multiple sclerosis patients, some of which involves the use of different medications. The most common medication prescribed is Dramamine (Meclizine) the same medication given to those who suffer from motion sickness. Others like Scopoderm (a scopolamine or hyoscine) are generally administered in the form of a patch that is placed behind the ear. For those suffering with extreme levels of multiple sclerosis dizziness a course of corticosteroids may be recommended.
The most popular non drug treatment for multiple sclerosis dizziness is VRT or Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy in which the therapist works with the patient to retrain the way their brain interprets and processes the information that it receives from the vestibular system along with the sight proprioception so that the brain no is no longer affected. This particular treatment is often successful enough to enable the patient to no longer need any medical intervention to overcome their dizziness once and for all.