As we age, our balance and equilibrium gradually get worse. This can result in seniors prone to losing their balance and falling. Vertigo (dizziness) is the feeling you get when you have the sensation as if you or the room are spinning. It has been reported that in the United States nearly one-third of seniors after the age of 65 have falls linked to balance problems and at age 75 and beyond nearly half of this group will suffer a fall secondary to balance problems. There is no preference occurring between men or women with poor balance. Balance and dizziness may affect senior citizens with activities of daily living and recreation such as golf, tennis or bike riding. Balance disorders are a significant problem with seniors as falls may result in injury and even death. This article explains some of the causes of loss of equilibrium that can result in poor balance. A separate article, “How Can I Improve My Balance?“, outlines some suggestions that can be done to minimize vertigo and balance problems.
What are Some Causes of Balance Problems?
Frequent stumbling or tripping when walking may be an indicator of poor balance. In addition, feeling dizziness or losing your balance when bending over to pick something up or misstepping or tripping when going up or down stairs indicates your balance is not intact. Dizziness and balance problems are common reasons for the aging population to consult a doctor.There are many causes that may contribute to balance problems and disorders. Some of the contributing factors may include the following:
- Inner Ear – This generates the most common cause of balance problems (vertigo).
The labyrinth in the inner ear is the area responsible for balance. Common causes of vertigo in all ages include the following:
- Méniére’s Disease – This is characterized by not only poor balance, but tinnitus (ringing in the ear), a feeling of pressure in the ear and possible hearing loss that may come and go.
- Labyrinthitis – The inner ear coordinates balance with the eyes and joints of the body. This is called proprioception and includes the spine and feet. Poor arches and foot mechanics may contribute to poor balance.
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – This is one of the most common causes of vertigo. Vertigo may result when changing position suddenly, turning your neck suddenly while driving, looking upwards, rolling over in bed or quickly getting out of bed. Very small calcium particles are displaced in the ear and affect the balance sensors creating the dizziness.
- Inner Ear Infection – Adults can experience inner ear infections which may contribute to problems with balance. A sense of pressure and pain in the ear is present. Fever, hearing loss and dizziness accompany the infection. Medical attention is warranted.
- Low Blood Pressure – Blood doesn’t get to the head fast enough when getting up from sitting or lying down. This is called orthostatic hypotension.
- Anxiety or Panic Attacks – These may occur in stressful conditions with the feeling of dizziness, faintness, rapid heartbeat, tightness in the throat and a sense of impending catastrophe or doom. Immediate attention by a medical professional or your primary care physician should be obtained.
- Headaches – Migraine and muscle contraction / tension headaches may contribute to dizziness.
- Medication – A common side effect of various medications may be loss of balance and vertigo. Monitoring the elderly’s use of hypertensive medications is necessary to prevent them from an overdose. This may result in a significant drop in blood pressure causing balance and dizziness problems. Check with your physician or pharmacist to see if this might be a contributing factor.
- Acoustic Neuroma – This is a benign slow growing tumor in the ear that adversely affects balance and hearing. It is diagnosed with various tests to include MRI, CT scans and laboratory testing.
There are other less common causes such as dehydration and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that can contribute to dizziness. However, as you will have noted in this article there are multiple causes of dizziness and balance problems. The balance disorders can be multifaceted and difficult to diagnose. Visiting your health care professional can help determine if your balance issues are biomechanical from the joints of the spine or lower extremities, inner ear, neurological or cardiovascular in nature. Don’t wait to find out the cause of your balance and dizziness symptoms.
Visit the article “How Can I Improve My Balance?” on this website for further information.
The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in co-management of biomechanical balance and vertigo problems.