Recently, a couple of short spells of dizziness brought back memories of some of my first discernible MS attacks. These were little flutters of reality, not the weeklong bout with disequilibrium I’d experienced in my early twenties. But still …
Dizziness isn’t rare with multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, it happens to enough people to be considered one of the “more common” symptoms of the disease by the National MS Society. Many of us will feel the occasional light-headedness, slight bit of disorientation, and a sense of being off-balance when placing one foot in front of the other.
Vertigo, however, is a much more severe and significantly rarer (but far from unknown) symptom of MS.
This past weekend I experienced a bit of the former while walking through a parking lot. Luckily, my wife, Caryn, was at my side, and the episodes passed after a couple of moments.
Being that we were walking to a friend’s live-aboard boat for an early-evening supper made me leery of the night’s prospects, but everything turned out fine. (Better than that: We had a great evening.)
The Sheer Misery of Severe Vertigo
The episode did, however, bring back memories of my 23rd year, when I was bedridden for over a week — and off work for two — having to keep my eyes closed so I wouldn’t see the world spinning past them.
Crawling on all fours from bed to bath to vomit (to the point of heart arrhythmia) was a most miserable and humbling experience.
Since this was before the wide use of MRI, and because I’d had no other symptoms, the local emergency doctors diagnosed me with labyrinthitis, an infection of the inner ear that can cause these symptoms (in retrospect, a blatant misdiagnosis, since I had none of the other symptoms of the disorder).
The only thing the doctors could do for me at the time was to prescribe anti-nausea meds and wait until the symptoms passed. Since nearly everything I ate was coming back up, you can imagine the continuation of humbling I got when I realized that the medication was delivered via suppository. Not the most pleasant application, but I must admit that it worked pretty quickly.
Coping With Episodic or Persistent Vertigo
This was obviously a very serious bout of vertigo, but there are folks with MS who experience several levels of vertigo.
Vertigo can be a constant for many people with the disease. I’ve had conversations with scores of people who live with varying degrees of it many if not most days.
Thankfully, there are exercises that can “retrain” the brain to balance better. Even people without MS can benefit from this practice. In recent months, Caryn had a few episodes and was given the same routine to practice that I was prescribed subsequent to that first attack. The exercises worked for her, and they’ve worked for me.
If you experience dizziness or vertigo (either as a result of MS or some other malady), talk to your doctors. Don’t go on suffering the off-kilter existence that is vertigo.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.