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Poor Balance

What is Poor Balance?

Poor balance can be defined as a sense of unsteadiness on your feet due to dizzy spells or lightheadedness, fainting, blackouts, or loss of consciousness.

For proper balance, many body systems including muscles, joints, bones, vision, the balance organ in the inner ear, heart, nerves, and blood vessels should work normally. Any malfunction of these systems can result in poor balance.

What are the Causes of Poor Balance?

Some of the common causes of poor balance may include:

  • Infections of the ear
  • Inner ear problems
  • Injury of the head
  • Improper blood circulation
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Neurological conditions
  • Aging
  • Arthritis
  • Certain medications

What are the Symptoms of Poor Balance?

Signs and symptoms of poor balance may include:

  • A sensation of dizziness or vertigo (spinning)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A feeling of lightheadedness or faintness (presyncope)
  • A sense of unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • A feeling of dizziness or a floating sensation
  • Change in vision, such as blurring
  • Mental confusion or disorientation
  • Feeling of depression, fear, or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood pressure and heart rate changes
  • Difficulty in concentration

Types of Balance Disorders

Some of the common balance disorders that result in poor balance include:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): An intense sensation of vertigo that occurs because of a specific positional change of the head
  • Labyrinthitis: An infection or inflammation of the inner ear causing dizziness and loss of balance
  • Meniere’s disease: An inner ear fluid balance disorder that causes episodes of vertigo, tinnitus (a ringing sensation in the ears), and a sensation of fullness in the ear
  • Vestibular neuritis: A viral infection of the vestibular nerves in the balance portion of your inner ear causing difficulty walking and nausea
  • Perilymph fistula: A seepage of inner ear fluid to the middle ear that can occur after physical exertion or head injury causing dizziness, ear fullness, and motion sickness

Who is at Risk of Poor Balance?

You may be prone to poor balance issues if you are suffering from a bacterial or viral infection, taking certain medications, experiencing inner ear problems, or recovering from an injury to the head.

How is Poor Balance Diagnosed? 

Balance problems are difficult to diagnose as numerous factors can be involved.  A doctor normally asks for symptoms and reviews the patient’s medical history for related conditions and medications for potential causes of poor balance issues. In order to pinpoint the exact cause and estimate the gravity of the problem, the following tests may be run:

  • Hearing tests
  • Blood pressure and heart rate tests
  • Eye movement tests
  • Imaging scans of your head and brain, such as CT or an MRI scan
  • Posturography test, a study of posture

How is Poor Balance Treated?

Poor balance problems can be addressed with:

  • Medications: To treat ear infection causing balance issues
  • Balance retraining exercises or vestibular rehabilitation: Therapists design a customized program of balance retraining and exercises
  • Positioning procedures: Such as canalith repositioning procedure to treat BPPV
  • Surgery: To treat Meniere's disease or acoustic neuroma
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes

How is Poor Balance Prevented?

Preventing poor balance problems can be difficult; however, you can address the underlying cause such as those related to blood pressure, ear infections, and side effects from medications.

Avoiding alcohol and drinking more water helps in addressing low blood pressure issues that may cause poor balance. Exercising regularly, limiting salt intake, and maintaining a healthy weight helps in addressing high blood pressure issues that may cause poor balance. Treatment for ear infections involves medications such as antibiotics to resolve the issue. If medication is the cause, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

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