Medication to Treat Vertigo

Ear infections (e.g., otitis media, labyrinthitis) caused by bacteria may be treated using antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin, ceftriaxone). Myringotomy is a surgical procedure that may be used to treat chronic ear infections. In this procedure, which is performed under anesthesia, an incision is made in the eardrum and a small tube is placed in the opening to prevent fluid and bacteria from building up inside the ear.

BPPV that does not respond to canalith repositioning may be treated with meclizine (Antivert), an oral antiemetic that can be taken up to 3 times a day, or only as needed. Meclizine may cause drowsiness, dry mouth, and blurred vision.

If meclizine is ineffective, benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or antihistamines such as promethazine (Phenergan) may be prescribed. Side effects of clonazepam include drowsiness, lack of coordination (ataxia), and confusion. Promethazine may cause drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, and tremors.

Ménière disease may be treated by reducing sodium (salt) intake and with diuretic medications. A short, tapered course of corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) may be prescribed early in the disease to reduce inflammation and stabilize hearing. Antibiotics (e.g., gentamicin) may be administered into the middle ear (called intratympanic perfusion) to treat severe vertigo caused by Ménière disease.

Vertigo caused by migraine can often be treated with medication.

Cerebrovascular disease (stroke), tumors, and multiple sclerosis may require treatment with medication, radiation, or surgery.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015