People with vertigo often limit their alcohol intake. This is because alcohol can worsen vertigo symptoms. Individuals who drink excess alcohol may also experience vertigo and spatial disorientation.

Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness that causes people to feel that their surroundings are spinning. It is a symptom of some ear health conditions and inflammation.

Doctors may advise a person with vertigo against drinking alcohol, as it may cause dehydration, which can lead to dizziness.

In this article, we examine the relationship between alcohol and vertigo. We look at how alcohol affects vertigo, the brain, and ears, and the potential treatments for vertigo.

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Some studies indicate that alcohol may cause vertigo.

According to the National Institute on Aging, balance problems are common among older adults, especially if they take medications or have inner ear problems. If there is inflammation in their labyrinth, which is part of their inner ear, they may experience vertigo and imbalance.

Dizziness may also occur if individuals drink alcohol. Alcohol can impair the nervous system cells, which may cause lightheadedness and delay a person’s reaction time.

A 2018 study states that dietary changes, including reducing salt, caffeine, and alcohol intake, are a common treatment option that doctors recommend for people with Ménière’s disease. Health experts believe drinking alcohol causes the blood vessels to contract, reducing the blood supply to the inner ear, which worsens symptoms of vertigo for people with Ménière’s disease.

However, the authors say there is no high quality research supporting or disproving the idea that restricting salt, caffeine, or alcohol is effective for patients with this condition.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to remove fluids from the blood. A person can get dehydrated if they drink alcohol without pairing it with water.

According to the National Library of Medicine, symptoms individuals develop if they are dehydrated may include:

  • dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • muscle cramps
  • dark urine

Alcohol may negatively affect the brain and ears. Regular alcohol consumption can reduce concentration, increase the risk of stroke, and interfere with how the brain processes information.

Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) disorders could occur due to frequent alcohol consumption. Those who drink alcoholic beverages may be unable to stand upright and are more prone to fall and hit their head, which may lead to brain damage.

One type of ARBD is dementia, affecting people between 40 and 50 years of age.

Alcohol also has links to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Some people may also develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a type of brain damage disorder that causes confusion and vision problems.

Furthermore, it is important to be aware of the effects alcohol may have on hearing. One study found that heavy alcohol consumption in males may lead to hearing problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that if a person drinks alcohol during pregnancy, their baby may develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Symptoms of FASD may include:

  • hearing problems
  • speech delays
  • learning difficulties
  • concentration problems
  • difficulty managing energy levels

The most common causes of vertigo are inner ear problems that may affect balance. These include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: This occurs when a person experiences the sensation of spinning or moving, resulting from a sudden head movement.
  • Labyrinthitis: Doctors associate labyrinthitis with inner ear inflammation, which can affect people of any age. It may cause hearing loss, imbalance, and dizziness.
  • Vestibular neuritis: This refers to the inflammation of the vestibular nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain.
  • Ménière’s disease: This is a rare condition resulting from excessive fluid buildup inside the ear. It typically affects one ear and may cause severe dizziness, hearing loss, and ear congestion.

A 2020 study states that some medications may lead to vertigo and other side effects, such as dizziness, hearing loss, and tinnitus.

People may opt for different options to treat vertigo, such as taking medications or making lifestyle changes.

Medications

To relieve vertigo episodes lasting up to a few days, doctors may prescribe:

  • antihistamines
  • antiemetics, such as ondansetron and promethazine
  • benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam and clonazepam
  • anticholinergics, such as scopolamine patches that a person places behind the ear

Meclizine is an antihistamine drug that is safe to use during pregnancy. It also has anticholinergic properties, which block the action of the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, along with another antihistamine called diphenhydramine.

Antiviral medications may benefit people with labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis from shingles.

There is no cure for Ménière’s disease. However, healthcare professionals may recommend taking prochlorperazine for nausea and vomiting.

Those with severe symptoms may receive prochlorperazine as an injectable as it provides fast relief. Antihistamines may also help relieve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

Self-care tips that may help reduce vertigo symptoms include:

  • using a cane when walking
  • moving the head slowly
  • sitting down as soon as dizziness arises
  • using more than one pillow to sleep with the head elevated
  • lying in a dark room so that the feeling of spinning disappears

People can seek medical care for vertigo, hearing difficulties, and severe headaches.

A doctor may ask about an individual’s symptoms and medical history. They may also perform hearing exams and balance tests.

Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness where people feel that they are moving or spinning, mainly affecting those with labyrinthitis or Ménière’s disease.

Dizziness may occur in those with frequent alcohol use, affecting reaction time and increasing a person’s risk of developing ARBDs.

Doctors may prescribe medications to reduce vertigo symptoms. They may also suggest avoiding drinking alcohol and making lifestyle changes.