The approach to drug treatment of vertigo is almost exclusively symptomatic. There are 3 major goals for drug treatment of vertigo. The first one is to eliminate the hallucination of motion. Drugs with vestibular ‘suppressant’ properties are used for this purpose. The major vestibular suppressants are anticholinergic and antihistamine drugs. The second goal is to reduce the accompanying neurovegetative and psychoaffective signs (nausea, vomiting, anxiety). Antidopaminergics are used for this purpose. The third goal is to enhance the process of ‘vestibular compensation’ to allow the brain to find a new sensory equilibrium in spite of the vestibular lesion. Until now, the pharmacological manipulation of vestibular compensation has been assessed in animals but not in humans with vestibular lesions. Vestibular suppressant drugs delay rather than enhance compensation. A variety of other drugs is also used in the treatment of vertigo, including benzodiazepines, histaminergic agents, sympathomimetics and calcium antagonists. Their mechanism of action is poorly understood. The data base derived from clinical trials evaluating antivertigo medications is often questionable because of methodological limitations. This explains why habits of prescription are mainly empirical, and why striking differences can be noticed from one country to another. We can hope that new treatments may emerge from the present interest in receptor subclasses and neuromodulators of the vestibular system, and we must be ready to evaluate these potential new pharmacological agents with reliable clinical methods in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)