Vertigo is the feeling that your surroundings are spinning even if you’re standing still. It is a balance issue commonly associated with MS and its interruption of nerve signals.
Though the words ‘dizziness’ and ‘vertigo’ are often used interchangeably to describe a sensation some people with MS experience, these symptoms are not one and the same.
Vertigo can be described a little like that feeling of when you may have spun round and round as a child, then stopped suddenly. Only now you’re an adult, you’re not at the playground and stopping vertigo is a little harder. It is an acute, uncomfortable feeling of unsteadiness or disequilibrium.
It can feel like:
- The ground is suddenly rushing upwards.
- The room (or surroundings) is moving continuously.
- The room only seems to rotate part of the way, return to normal, and rotate part way again.
It can be a very powerful feeling of movement and can cause nausea or vomiting. At its worst, vertigo can cause difficulty standing or walking and even lead to falls. It rarely persists for a long time but can take weeks or months to go away (which it usually does gradually). Some people, however, experience it chronically.
Dizziness can be described a little differently. It’s more a sensation of feeling lightheaded, woozy or off-balance. Dizziness is an umbrella term that describes an uncomfortable sensation best described as inner confusion. It includes lightheadedness, equilibrium imbalance, and feelings of being disoriented.
There are treatments for both of these conditions, but an accurate diagnosis by your health care team is vital to make sure the medical problem is treated effectively.
Our MS in a Minute videos were created to provide fast and factual definitions of commonly used terms in MS.