Balance problems are somewhat common, especially as we age. They can be dangerous, however.
For example, if you have a balance problem it can cause you to fall. The result can be a head injury. Head injuries can require extensive recovery, and you might not fully regain all of the abilities you had before your fall.
Falls are a leading cause of brain injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control, as cited by the Gomez trial attorneys office.
With many balance problems, there are steps you can take to help the issue and reduce your risk of falling.
The following are some of the main things to know about balance issues.
How Does Balance Work?
We have something called the vestibular system, which is part of the inner ear. The vestibular system provides information to our brains about our balance and where our body is located in space.
The vestibular system also works with the brain and eyes so that your movements feel coordinated and smooth.
With the help of the vestibular system, your brain can coordinate different actions like walking, knowing if you are moving, and standing up.
Balance problems are most common in older adults and are most frequently caused by inner ear disturbances. These problems are usually the result of inner ear disturbances.
As has been touched on, balance disorders are one of the big reasons older people fall.
Symptoms of Balance Disorders
Some of the potential symptoms of balance disorders are:
- Dizziness or vertigo, which is the sensation of spinning
- Feeling like you’re going to fall
- Lightheadedness or feeling faint
- Feeling a floating sensation
- Blurred vision
There are can also be other symptoms that you might less frequently associate with balance such as nausea and vomiting, changes in blood pressure or heart rate, and panic or anxiety.
Balance disorders can be signs of other health problems, and if you experience any symptoms you think to indicate an issue with balance, you should talk to your health care provider.
If you have a feeling of spinning, known as vertigo, associated conditions include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV: This occurs when calcium crystals located in your inner ear that help control balance are dislodged. They can then move around the inner ear. You may experience feelings of spinning when you’re tilting your head or turning in bed. This is a very common, benign reason you could experience vertigo or have balance issues.
- Vestibular neuritis: An inflammatory disorder most likely caused by a virus, vestibular neuritis can affect nerves in your inner ear. You may have persistent, severe symptoms including nausea and problems walking. These symptoms can last for days, but they do tend to resolve eventually without treatment.
- Meniere’s disease: This can cause sudden, severe vertigo and fluctuations in hearing loss. You may experience buzzing, ringing, or the sensation of fullness in your ear. Doctors don’t fully understand this disorder’s cause, and it is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Migraine: Migraine is a chronic condition, and it can include motion sensitivity and dizziness.
Acoustic neuroma: This is a slow-growing benign tumor that develops on a nerve, affecting hearing and balance. Along with the loss of balance and dizziness, it might also cause ringing in your ear and hearing loss.
Head injuries: If you have a concussion or another type of head injury, you may have vertigo.
If you lose your balance while you’re walking, or you just feel unbalanced, it can be the result of:
- Vestibular problems are inner ear abnormalities. Vestibular problems cause a sensation of a heavy head or floating.
- If you have nerve damage to your legs, known as peripheral neuropathy, that could cause problems with walking.
- You may feel or be unstable because of muscle weakness or unsteady joints.
- Certain medications have a loss of balance or unsteadiness as a side effect. Medications that may impact balance and cause dizziness are sleeping pills, antibiotics, beta-blockers, and antianxiety medicines.
- Neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and cervical spondylosis, can lead to a feeling of imbalance.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone could potentially be at risk of having a balance problem, but most commonly, you are at risk if you’re recovering from a head injury or have a viral infection. You could also be at risk if you have inner ear problems or are on certain medicines.
If you’re over the age of 65, have high or low blood pressure, or have arthritis, you are also at greater risk of balance problems.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
Anytime you’re experiencing balancing issues, you should plan to see your doctor. They can start a workup to determine what the cause might be and help you create a treatment plan. Plus, they can also rule out serious underlying causes that could be contributing to your balance problems.
If you go to the doctor with a balance problem, they will usually start going over your medical history.
They might then perform different tests, including balance tests. They could do blood tests to ensure you don’t have an infection, and they could order imaging tests to see if there are any injuries or other problems that could be contributing to your balance issues.
How Are Balance Problems Treated?
The treatment for balance problems depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor might go over any medications you’re currently taking and then adjust your dosage or switch them to something else.
If your condition is caused by something like a bacterial ear infection, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic. If you have Meniere’s disease, you may need surgery on your vestibular system.
There are also certain rehabilitative exercises that you could do at home to help improve your balance, again, depending on the underlying cause of the issue. Your doctor might recommend a combination of physical therapy and the exercises you do at home.
If you have balance issues, it can turn into a much bigger problem, so speak to your health care provider sooner rather than later.