American Hospital Blog

Balance problems

Balance problems

Balance problems are most common among adults who may feel dizzy, unsteady and lightheaded, making people feel as if their room is spinning and they are going to fall. This feeling may be experienced while lying down, sitting or standing.

People may experience balance problems when body systems such as joints, eyes, muscles, bones, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and the inner ear's balance organ (vestibular system) are not functioning appropriately. Even certain medical conditions can result in balance problems.

Understand the symptoms

When there is a balance problem, people may experience a sense of motion or spin (vertigo). There are feelings of faintness, lightheadedness (presyncope). There will be loss of balance or unsteadiness, feeling like you might fall or a floating sensation, dizziness, confusion and even vision changes, such as blurriness.

Consult the doctor

Balance problems may occur due to several different conditions that are related to a specific symptom.

Sense of motion or spinning (vertigo)

This is associated with many conditions, such as:

• Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): BPPV, a common cause of vertigo in adults, happens when calcium crystals in your inner ear that assist in controlling the balance is dislodged from their regular positions and move away in the inner ear. Here the person feels a spinning sensation while turning in bed or tilting the head back when looking up.
• Vestibular neuritis: This is an inflammatory disorder resulting from a virus that may affect the nerves in the balance part of the inner ear, causing severe and persistent nausea and difficulty walking. It may last several days and gradually improve without treatment.
• Persistent postural perceptual dizziness: When this disorder happens, it is with other types of vertigo, causing instability or a sensation of motion in your head. The condition worsens while watching objects move, even when you read or in a visually complex environment like a shopping mall.
• Meniere's disease: This is a rare condition that develops in people aged 20 to 40. It causes sudden and severe vertigo, creating a fluctuating hearing loss, buzzing, ringing in the ear or a sensation of fullness in your ear.
• Migraine: Migraine causes dizziness and sensitivity to motion (vestibular migraine).
• Acoustic neuroma: This noncancerous (benign) is a slow-growing tumor that develops on a nerve, affecting hearing and balance. It causes dizziness or loss of balance, hearing loss and ringing in your ear.
• Ramsay Hunt syndrome: It is also called herpes zoster oticus, wherein a shingles-like infection hits the auditory, facial, and vestibular nerves near one of the ears, causing vertigo, ear pain, facial weakness and hearing loss.
• Head injury: It occurs due to a concussion or other head injury.
• Motion sickness: It is a common condition for people with migraines, causing dizziness during travel in boats, cars and aeroplanes, or on amusement park rides.

A feeling of faintness or lightheadedness

It is associated with:

• Hemodynamic orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension): A feeling of lightheadedness or faintness occurs in this condition; when people stand or sit up too quickly, causing a significant drop in their blood pressure.
• Cardiovascular disease: Health conditions such as abnormal heart rhythms (heart arrhythmia), a thickened heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), narrowed or blocked blood vessels, or decreased blood volume may lessen blood flow, resulting in lightheadedness or fainting feeling.

Loss of balance or unsteadiness

It occurs while walking, or feeling imbalanced, resulting from:

• Vestibular problems: These are abnormalities in your inner ear, creating a sensation of a floating or heavy head and instability in the dark.
• Nerve damage to your legs (peripheral neuropathy): This damage causes difficulty in walking.
• Joint, muscle or vision problems: Here, muscle weakness and unstable joints may cause loss of balance and difficulties with eyesight also results in unsteadiness.
• Medications: Loss of balance or unsteadiness may occur as a side effect of some medicines.
• Certain neurological conditions: Conditions like Parkinson's disease and cervical spondylosis are contributing to this condition.

Dizziness

The sense of dizziness or lightheadedness can happen due to:

• Inner ear problems: These are abnormalities of the vestibular system that causes a false sensation of motion, such as floating and more.
• Psychiatric disorders: Conditions such as anxiety, depression (major depressive disorder), and other psychiatric disorders may lead to dizziness.
• Abnormally rapid breathing (hyperventilation): It accompanies anxiety disorders, causing lightheadedness.
• Medications: Some side effects of drugs or medicines can cause lightheadedness.

Recognize the risks

People with certain medications, those with a viral infection, who experience inner ear problems or have recovered from a head injury are prone to risk. Also, those aged 65 or older with arthritis, high or low blood pressure may have a higher risk of experiencing balance problems.

Measures for prevention

Generally, people can address the issues causing balancing problems like blood pressure issues - drink more water, avoid alcohol, perform regular exercising and limit your salt intake in high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight.

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