Balance disorder symptoms might include
• Falling or feeling as if you are going to fall
• Staggering when you try to walk
• 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.
Causes of balance disorder problems include medications, ear infection, a head injury, or anything else that affects the inner ear or brain. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness when you stand up too quickly. Problems that affect the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, can also cause balance disorders. Your risk of having balance problems increases as you get older.
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Types of Balance disorders
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or positional vertigo
A brief, intense episode of vertigo triggered by a specific change in the position of the head. You might feel as if you’re spinning when you bend down to look under something, tilt your head to look up or over your shoulder or roll over in bed. BPPV occurs when loose otoconia tumble into one of the semicircular canals and affect how the cupula works. This keeps the cupula from flexing properly, sending incorrect information about your head’s position to your brain, and causing vertigo. BPPV can result from a head injury or can develop just from getting older. runts, gurgles and makes cooing sounds when comfortable
An infection or inflammation of the inner ear that causes dizziness and loss of balance. It is often associated with an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu.
Episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ear), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. It may be associated with a change in fluid volume within parts of the labyrinth, but the cause or causes are still unknown. For more information, read the NIDCD fact sheet Ménière’s Disease.
An inflammation of the vestibular nerve that can be caused by a virus, and primarily causes vertigo.
A leakage of inner ear fluid into the middle ear. It causes unsteadiness that usually increases with activity, along with dizziness and nausea. Perilymph fistula can occur after a head injury, dramatic changes in air pressure (such as when scuba diving), physical exertion, ear surgery, or chronic ear infections. Some people are born with perilymph fistula.
Mal de Debarquement syndrome (MdDS)
A feeling of continuously rocking, swaying, or bobbing, typically after an ocean cruise or other sea travel, or even after prolonged running on a treadmill. Usually the symptoms go away within a few hours or days after you reach land or stop using the treadmill. Severe cases, however, can last months or even years, and the cause remains unknown.
How are balance disorders diagnosed?
An otolaryngologist is a physician and surgeon who specialized in diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, neck, and throat. An audiologist is a clinician who specializes in the function of the hearing and vestibular systems.
You may be asked to participate in a hearing examination, blood tests, a video nystagmogram (a test that measures eye movements and the muscles that control them), or imaging studies of your head and brain.
To help you decide whether to seek medical help for dizziness or balance problems, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, talk to your doctor:
• Do I feel unsteady?
• Do I feel as if the room is spinning around me, even for a very brief time?
• Do I feel as if I’m moving when I know I’m sitting or standing still?
• Do I lose my balance and fall?
• Do I feel as if I’m falling?
• Do I feel lightheaded or as if I might faint?
• Do I have blurred vision?
• Do I ever feel disoriented—losing my sense of time or location?
Balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation)
Therapists trained in balance problems design a customized program of balance retraining and exercises. Therapy can help you compensate for imbalance, adapt to less balance and maintain physical activity. To prevent falls, your therapist might recommend a balance aid, such as a cane, and ways to reduce your risk of falls in your home.
If you have BPPV, a therapist might conduct a procedure (canalith repositioning) that clears particles out of your inner ear and deposits them into a different area of your ear. The procedure involves maneuvering the position of your head.
Diet and lifestyle changes
If you have Meniere’s disease or migraines, dietary changes are often suggested that can ease symptoms. You may need to limit salt intake and avoid other dietary triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and certain ingredients. If you experience postural hypotension, you might need to drink more fluids or wear compression stockings.
If you have severe vertigo that lasts hours or days, you might be prescribed medications that can control dizziness and vomiting.
If you have Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma, your treatment team may recommend surgery. Stereotactic radiosurgery might be an option for some people with acoustic neuroma. This procedure delivers radiation precisely to your tumor and doesn’t require an incision.