I always assumed, as I’m sure many do, that vertigo is a fear of heights. However, it appears that acrophobia is the correct term for an extreme fear of heights. A common misconception it may be but dizziness is a very real symptom of Multiple Sclerosis.

Vertigo is NOT acrophobia, a fear of heights

Vertigo Dizziness not acrophobia a fear of heightsVertigo is a dizzy sensation resulting in partial or complete loss of balance. I am sure that acrophobia can lead to vertigo, hence the apparent confusion.

Vertigo is a relatively common symptom of MS and is thought to caused by the demyelination of the Acoustic Cranial Nerve or 8th cranial nerve. This nerve serves both the auditory and balance signals from the ear.

Dizziness may also be a result of dysfunction in the eye muscles. This may be brought about by leions of the 3rd, 4th and 6th cranial nerves.

This dizziness can cause nausea and vomiting, it is often worse when lying down in bed with the lights out depriving the senses of other feedback.

The Wikipedia article suggests it may also be a feeling of objects moving around them, a sensation I have called spatial awareness or dysmetria.

I guess it is all a question of perception. Loss of balance may come about because my nerves are suppressing or preventing the balance signals being received by the brain. Or my current preferred theory, is that inflammation of the brain is preventing the correct neural response.

Treatments for Vertigo

Physiotherapy can help with mild forms of vertigo. Ironically, the treatment I have had involves head turning to bring on the dizziness in the expectation that this will make the body accustomed to the sensation. It does seem to work, while the exercises did make me dizzy, the normal dizziness has all but disappeared.

More sever cases will need to be treated with medications:

  • antihistamine
  • meclizine
  • dramamine
  • cyclizine

Some drugs used to treat other MS symptoms like Baclofen or Tricyclic antidepressants can aggravate vertigo.

References:

Multiple Sclerosis Encyclopaedia
Fear of Heights

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