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Balance Disorders


Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body's position, whether you are moving or remaining still. An intact sense of balance helps you

  • walk without staggering
  • get up from a chair without falling
  • climb stairs without tripping

Balance Disorders

As people grow older, they may have difficulty with their balance. Roughly 9 percent of adults who are 65 and older report having problems with balance.

Balance disorders a one of the main reasons why older people fall. Falls and fall-related injuries, such as hip fracture, can have a serious impact on an older person's life. If an older person falls, it could limit their activities or make it impossible to live independently. Many people often become more isolated after a fall.

What Causes a Balance Disorder?

Balance disorders are caused by several different conditions. Disturbances of the inner ear are a common cause. Balance disorders may also be caused by heart problems, head injury, medication, or problems with blood circulation.

Symptoms of a balance disorder

Common symptoms of a balance disorder are:

  • unsteadiness
  • vertigo (the feeling that you or the things around you are spinning)

If you think that you have a balance disorder, you should schedule an appointment with your family doctor. You can help your doctor make a diagnosis by writing down key information about your dizziness or balance problem beforehand and giving the information to your doctor during the visit. Tell your doctor as much as you can.

Types of Balance Disorders

There are many types of balance disorders. One of the most common is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. With BPPV, you experience a brief, intense feeling of vertigo that occurs when you change the position of your head.

You may also experience BPPV when rolling over to the left or right, upon getting out of bed in the morning, or when looking up for an object on a high shelf. BPPV is more likely to occur in adults ages 60 and older, but can also occur in younger people.

In BPPV, small calcium stones in the inner ear become displaced, causing a person to feel dizzy. The cause of BPPV is not known, although it may be caused by an inner ear infection, head injury, or aging.

Another type of balance disorder is labyrinthitis. This is an infection or inflammation of the inner ear causing dizziness and loss of balance. The labyrinth is the organ in your inner ear that helps you maintain your balance.

Ménière's disease is a balance disorder. The symptoms of Ménière's disease are:

  • vertigo
  • hearing loss that comes and goes
  • tinnitus (a ringing or roaring in the ears)
  • a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Can Balance Disorders be Treated?

Yes. Treatment options will depend on the cause. For example, if the balance disorder is caused by medication, the doctor may change the type of medication or lower the dosage of the medication.

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