Benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo in multiple sclerosis: diagnosis, pathophysiology and therapeutic techniques

Mult Scler. 2003 Jun;9(3):250-5. doi: 10.1191/1352458503ms901oa.


Objective: To report on the most common causes of vertigo in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and emphasize appropriate diagnostic techniques and treatment interventions.

Background: True vertigo is estimated to occur in about 20% of MS patients. Lesions within the vestibular nuclei and in the root entry zone of cranial nerve VIII represent the most common locations where demyelinating activity can provoke vertigo in patients with MS. However, other causes of vertigo should be explored in MS patients in order to avoid unnecessary treatment with corticosteroids and vestibular suppressants. Recently, we reviewed our four-year experience with new onset vertigo in our university-based MS population and found that benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV) to be the most common cause. All patients diagnosed with BPPV were treated successfully with particle repositioning maneuvers. The remaining patients were treated with conventional therapies appropriate for the specific diagnosis.

Conclusions: Empiric treatments with corticosteroids and/or vestibular suppressants should not be employed until all MS patients undergo a careful bedside examination, which includes diagnostic positional and, if indicated, particle repositioning maneuvers. Here we emphasize the pathophysiology of BPPV and illustrate the proper techniques for the diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Posture*
  • Vertigo / diagnosis*
  • Vertigo / etiology*
  • Vertigo / physiopathology
  • Vertigo / therapy