Conditions That Affect Balance

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When you’re experiencing disorders of balance , it can range from an annoyance to something that significantly impacts your quality of life. You may also be more at risk for falling and seriously hurting yourself if you’re dealing with balance issues.

There are situations like fluid pressure in your ears that contribute to balance issues, but there are many other conditions. Most of the conditions affecting your balance stem from a problem with the ears, but other general causes include head injuries, neurological disorders, and medications.

A balance disorder is broadly anything that makes you feel dizzy or unsteady. If you have a balance disorder and lying down, it can feel like you’re moving or spinning. If you’re walking, you might have the sudden sensation of tipping over.

A balance disorder’s symptoms include a spinning sensation, feeling like you’re going to fall, or staggering when you walk. Feeling faint or lightheaded, blurry vision, and disorientation can also be symptoms of balance disorders.

The following are some of the conditions that can and most often do affect people’s balance.

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is an infection of your inner ear. The name comes from the labyrinth, which is the inner ear. This is also referred to as your vestibular system. This is the part of your ear that is responsible for helping you maintain a sense of balance.

If your labyrinth is infected or there’s inflammation in the area, it can impact your hearing and cause a loss of balance. Other symptoms might include nausea and dizziness.

After the flu or a similar upper respiratory infection, you might develop labyrinthitis.

Vertigo

Vertigo isn’t itself a condition but is instead a symptom of other states.

There are two primary types of vertigo, which are central vertigo and peripheral vertigo. Peripheral vertigo is more common, and it stems from conditions infecting the inner ear. Central vertigo is the result of neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis.

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s Disease is a condition affecting the inner ear. It causes vertigo and can lead to a ringing sound in the ear and hearing problems. This condition is most common in people in their 40s and 50s.

It’s a chronic condition, but you can make lifestyle changes to help the symptoms, and it may go into remission.

Meniere’s Disease may be caused by fluid in the inner ear tubes, genetics, allergies, or autoimmune disease.

You may feel like your ear is plugged or full along with vertigo and loss of hearing; you may experience headaches, and you might have nausea, vomiting, or sweating that accompanies your vertigo.

Specific lifestyle changes may help the condition, such as regularly eating to manage bodily fluids and managing stress and anxiety.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Also known as BPPV, you might experience a sensation of spinning when you turn your head a particular way with this condition.

This can occur because calcium carbonate crystals in your ear are loosened and then move into inner ear canals.

As this happens, the loose crystals impair the fluid movement in your ears used to sense head movement. Your inner ear can send the wrong signals to your brain about your head position, leading to dizziness.

BPPV is most common in people with a head injury and also older individuals.

Vestibular Neuronitis

Vestibular neuronitis is an infection of the inner ear that can contribute to loss of balance and dizziness. It happens when the vestibular nerve, located in the inner ear, is affected by a virus.

Stroke

If someone seems to be losing their sense of coordination and balance, it can suddenly sign a stroke. Other signs of a stroke may include numbness on one side of the body, sudden vision problems, and severe headaches. A stroke is a medical emergency.

Diagnosing Balance Problems

If you’re experiencing disorders of balance, you should speak with your health care provider. Balance problems can be indicative of a severe health problem.

You might be referred to an audiologist or an otolaryngologist specializing in the ears, nose, and throat.

Tests might include:

  • Hearting tests
  • Blood tests
  • Tests to measure the movement of eye muscles
  • Brain activity tests
  • Balance assessments on a moving surface
  • Measuring eye movements when you’re seated on a chair that rotates
  • Blowing air into the ear canal and measuring the response

The treatment for balance issues will depend on the underlying cause. There may be medications prescribed or lifestyle changes. For some people, surgery may be 

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