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Balance problems can be caused by many situations. They are especially troublesome in the elderly, who are at a higher risk of breaking a bone. However, in younger individuals they can create problems at work or in daily activities. Balance problems can range from a mild annoyance to a more severe and disabling condition. Below is some basic information on the different situations that can affect your ability to maintain balance.
In order to maintain balance your brain needs to receive information from your eyes and ears, and from pressures against your skin and muscles. You also need to have good muscular strength. All of these systems work together to provide information to the brain about where your body is in space and what corrections are needed to maintain balance. When any of these systems is affected by disease or when they are not functioning correctly, then you may have sensations of spinning, light-headedness and trouble focusing your eyes. You may then lose your balance and fall.
As you age there are changes to your eyes, ears and your skin's ability to sense pressure. All of these changes reduce the amount of information available to the brain to help you maintain balance. In addition, there is a tendency to become more sedentary, which can lead to muscle tightness and weakness. According to the National Institute on Aging's Senior Health Division, approximately 40 percent of people over age 65 fall each year. This leads to even less activity due to the fear of falling again. This creates a downward spiral where the individual becomes more and more at risk for losing balance and falling. Participating in an appropriate strength training program can help to counteract this process.
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, vertigo is the most common form of dizziness. There are different types of vertigo, but all are caused by a problem in the inner ear. This problem can be inflammation, Menagerie's disease, tumors or other growths in the ear, certain medications and many other conditions. When there is a problem within the vestibular system, you may experience symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, spatial disorientation and other symptoms.
Changes in Blood Pressure
Orthostatic hypotension is a condition that occurs when there is a significant drop in blood pressure. It tends to happen when rising from lying down or a seated position. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop too low and can bring on feelings of light-headedness or faintness. Heart conditions such as atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia and other cardiac conditions can cause your blood pressure to drop. This means you will not have an adequate supply of blood flow from the heart. This can reduce your levels of oxygen and lead to balance issues.
Diseases and Treatments
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that balance issues can also be caused by a tumor that affects an area of the brain. Infections and head injuries can also cause you to feel off balance. Medications to treat these conditions and other medical conditions often have a side effect of drowsiness or dizziness. It is important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find out what effect your medication may have on your balance. This can be especially critical if you are taking more then one prescription medication or are using over-the-counter remedies or herbal treatments as there may be interactions.