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Balance Information

My balance is bad.
More and more I’m feeling unsteady.
Every now and then I get dizzy.

Sound familiar?

Balance is the ability to stay upright. The mechanism involves cooperation between your ears, eyes and small muscles around your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, midsection and even the feeling in the bottom of your feet. Balance is vital to normal everyday life activities. Disruptions to an individual’s sense of stability can increase the risk of falls, the leading cause of injuries in older adults.

Many things can cause balance issues:

  • Inner-ear problems: Swelling from illness or infection, debris in the ear or a blow to the head can damage your ears. When that happens, your balance goes downhill, too.
  • Vision problems: The eyes and ears work together to ensure balance. Balance can be thrown off through loss of vision. Cataracts or macular degeneration can cause vision problems that affect balance.
  • Loss of sensation: Losing feeling in lower extremities, such as the soles of your feet, can throw off your balance. This is especially prevalent in older people and diabetics with foot problems.
  • Disease: Loss of balance is a symptom of any number of diseases or conditions. You name it and balance can be a victim: cardiovascular and neurological disease, colds and flu, a broken leg or an upset stomach.
  • Medications: Older people may see more than one doctor, and may find themselves taking many pills every day. Make sure your primary doctor and your pharmacist know which pills you’re taking.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse: Intoxication causes balance problems.
  • Fear: Many seniors tell their doctors that they fear falling. That fear keeps them in bed, or in a chair, immobile. That can lead to weakened muscles and a self-fulfilling loop: the more sedentary the lifestyle, the more severe the balance problems.
  • Muscles: Muscles help keep joints stable. When those muscles weaken, your posture declines, along with your endurance.
  • Standing up: When you stand, you experience a drop in blood pressure. That can mean that for a few seconds, your brain loses a big part of its blood supply, resulting in dizziness and making you wobbly.

Talking to your physician about balance problems can lead to testing to determine the reason for your difficulties. Another way to look at it is that the sense of balance is dependent on three major components:

  1. Vision
  2. The vestibular (inner ear) system
  3. The somatosensory (nervous) system (response to muscle and joint movement)
  4. Dysfunction of any of these components, particularly the vestibular system, leads to the common symptoms of: · Spinning, dizziness or vertigo · Problems in vision with head movement
  5. Poor balance – disequilibrium

Gaining more information about your particular condition can help you find ways of dealing more effectively with it so you can live a safer and more productive, enjoyable life. Check out the following links which can get you started on this process:

General information about balance

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003093.htm

Vestibular system

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dizziness/DS00435/DSECTION=2

Vision

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/search/search

Neurological system

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dizziness/DS00435/DSECTION=2 http://www.parkinsons.northwestern.edu/ataxia.html
http://ukhealthcare.uky.edu/content/content.asp?pageid=P00800