Don’t Let Dizziness Throw Off Your Life’s Balance
Dizziness or loss of balance, sometimes referred to as vertigo, is the second most common complaint that doctors hear. According to the National Institutes of Health, dizziness will occur in 70 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Whether the dizziness is fleeting or chronic may indicate how serious the potential health risks are to you as an individual.
Equilibrium disorders typically fall into two categories:
- Acute attacks of dizziness, vertigo, or a general loss of balance that may last a few seconds or a few hours
- A persistent sense of imbalance, unsteadiness, or what some people refer to as a loss of sure-footedness
Although you may feel helpless when you’re hit with a dizzy spell, there’s plenty of hope for these balance problems. Proper diagnosis has been enhanced over the last decade, making dizziness a much easier problem to identify.
Why Am I Losing My Balance?
To help balance your body, your brain requires input from your inner ear, your eyes, and your body to determine where it is in relation to other objects. Your brain takes this information to determine what movements your body should make based on what’s going on around you. If any one of the several parts of this complicated system does not work properly, a loss of sure-footedness or problems with movement coordination can take place.
The natural aging process may affect these senses, as well as the central nervous system’s ability to interpret and react to them quickly. Physicians commonly hear complaints that patients can see a curb or step, but aren’t able to react quickly enough to keep their balance. With proper diagnosis and therapeutic exercises, such as balance retraining, many older adults can return to a more active lifestyle.
Facts About Dizziness and Balance
- Loss of balance will affect 90 million Americans at some point during their lives.
- More than 9 million people each year consult their physicians to find solutions to their dizziness, which is the number one complaint for individuals over age 70.
- Balance-related falls account for more than half of all accidental deaths in the elderly population, and they cause more than 300,000 hip fractures each year in individuals over age 65.
- Some inner-ear disorders, like Ménière’s disease or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), have symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable to most people. Because of how they affect an individual’s ability to stand, walk, see clearly, think clearly, read, watch television, and make decisions, these disorders are often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and clinical depression.
- Children with treatable balance disorders are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as learning disabled, dyslexic, or psychologically disturbed.
- Head trauma and whiplash are frequent causes of dizziness.
- Ear infections can also cause vestibular disorders.
The first step in managing balance or vestibular disorders is to make an appointment with a physician who specializes in such disorders. Most likely, an audiological evaluation will be part of your diagnostic plan.