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What is the Connection Between Multiple Sclerosis and Dizziness?

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  • Written By: T. Webster
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Dizziness occurs in about 20 percent of patients who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The dizziness can be caused by a nerve lesion in the lower part of the brain, damage to nerves connected to the ears or other causes not related to multiple sclerosis. When multiple sclerosis and dizziness occurs, additional medical testing is often ordered to pinpoint the cause.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that impairs communication between nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Some of the symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis are tingling or numbness, muscle spasms, muscle weakness and problems with swallowing, vision, coordination, balance and speech. Multiple sclerosis has no known cause and no known cure.

Dizziness by definition can include feeling lightheaded, feeling off-balance or feeling as if the room is spinning or tilting. These symptoms can be mild or severe and usually last for a few minutes or less. In about 60 percent of patients, the connection between multiple sclerosis and dizziness is caused by debris that is collected in the ear and is comprised of small particles found in everyone's inner ear. These particles are attached to small hairs in the inner ear that help detect movement. If these particles fall off or move around, it can send a false signal of movement to the brain.

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The formal name for this condition is benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV), and it can cause a feeling of dizziness or spinning when the head is moved. The sensation can be severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting. Multiple sclerosis and dizziness can cause additional concern for people who are already worried about a disease that can limit their ability to freely move around.

On the positive side, BPPV is a benign cause of multiple sclerosis and dizziness. This means that it is not a direct result of multiple sclerosis. When BPPV occurs, medication will often be used to correct the symptoms.

Sometimes, medications used to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis can cause dizziness. These medications can include antidepressants and pain relievers. Drugs that reduce involuntary movements are also known to cause dizziness.

Multiple sclerosis and dizziness do not always go together. Dizziness should not be interpreted as a possible symptom of multiple sclerosis. Other diseases that are more common can also cause dizziness. Multiple sclerosis is most often diagnosed and detected through results from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests.

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