Has your loved one ever felt dizzy, lightheaded or had a spinning sensation? If the feeling happens often, it could be the sign of a balance problem. This article from the National Institute on Aging discusses this common disorder among seniors.
Balance problems are among the most common reasons that older adults seek help from a doctor. They are often caused by disturbances of the inner ear. Vertigo, the feeling that you or the things around you are spinning, is a common symptom.
Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or remaining still. Good balance helps you walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling, climb stairs without tripping, and bend over without falling. Good balance is important to help you get around, stay independent, and carry out daily activities.
Balance disorders are one reason older people fall. Learn more about falls and falls prevention from NIA. Visit the website of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for information on specific balance disorders.
Causes of Balance Problems
People are more likely to have problems with balance as they get older. But age is not the only reason these problems occur. In some cases, you can help reduce your risk for certain balance problems.
Some balance disorders are caused by problems in the inner ear. The part of the inner ear that is responsible for balance is the vestibular system, also known as the labyrinth. A condition called labyrinthitis occurs when the labyrinth becomes infected or swollen. It is typically accompanied by vertigo and imbalance. Upper respiratory infections, other viral infections, and, less commonly, bacterial infections can also lead to labyrinthitis.
Some diseases of the circulatory system, such as stroke, can cause dizziness and other balance problems. Low blood pressure can also cause dizziness. Head injury and many medicines may also lead to balance problems.
Check with your doctor if you notice a problem while taking a medication. Ask if other medications can be used instead. If not, ask if the dosage can be safely reduced. Sometimes it cannot. However, your doctor will help you get the medication you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.
Symptoms of Balance Disorders
If you have a balance disorder, you may stagger when you try to walk, or teeter or fall when you try to stand up. You might experience other symptoms such as:
- Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- Falling or feeling as if you are going to fall
- Lightheadedness, faintness, or a floating sensation
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
Other symptoms might include nausea and vomiting; diarrhea; changes in heart rate and blood pressure; and fear, anxiety, or panic. Symptoms may come and go over short time periods or last for a long time, and can lead to fatigue and depression.