About 9 percent of adults age 65 and older report having problems with balance.
Good balance is essential to being able to control and maintain your body’s position while moving and remaining still. Good balance helps you:
• Walk without staggering
• Arise from chairs without falling
• Climb stairs without tripping
You need good balance to help you stay independent and carry out daily chores and activities. Problems with sense of balance are experienced by many people as they age.
A feeling like you or the things around you are spinning is called “vertigo.” About 40 percent of Americans will experience dizziness that is serious enough to go to a doctor, and among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths.
There are many types of balance disorders. Two types are:
1. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
The most common balance disorder is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo that occurs as a brief, intense feeling of vertigo when you change the position of your head. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is also experienced sometimes when rolling over to the left or right, upon getting out of bed in the morning, or when looking up for an object on a high shelf. This condition is more likely to occur in adults 60 and older, but also occurs in younger people.
The cause for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is unknown. It may be caused by an inner ear infection, head injury or simply aging.
Labyrinthitis is an infection or inflammation of the inner ear causing dizziness and loss of balance. It affects adults of any age and the cause is unknown.
Ménière's disease is a balance disorder that causes:
• hearing loss that comes and goes
• tinnitus (ringing or roaring in the ears)
• full feeling in the ear
Treatment for balance disorders varies upon the cause. Consult your health care professional if you experience dizziness, vertigo or other problems with balance. Older people are more likely to experience balance disorders. Age is not the only reason these problems occur.
While some balance disorders are caused by problems in the inner ear, others may involve another part of the body like the brain or the heart. Other factors include:
• head injury
• certain medicines
• problems with blood circulation
• upper respiratory infections
• viral infections
• alcohol use
• diseases of the circulatory system such as stroke can cause dizziness and other balance problems
• low blood pressure
• high blood pressure
• heart disease
To make the symptoms of dizziness less severe eat low-salt or salt-free foods and stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Balance disorders caused by high blood pressure can usually be managed by eating less sodium, maintaining a healthy weight and exercise.
Wash your hands frequently to decrease chances for ear infections such as otitis media which can also cause dizziness and a balance disorder. Consider getting a flu shot every year to combat against respiratory infections. If you still get an ear infection, see a health care professional before it becomes serious.
Balance disorders are serious and one cause of falls and fall-related injuries in older people. It is important to have a possible balance disorder diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
If you can answer yes to any of the following questions you should discuss the symptom with your doctor:
• Do I have the feeling of being “unsteady?”
• Does the room seem to spin around me?
• Is there ever a time when you feel as if you are moving when you know you are standing still?
• Do you lose your balance and fall?
• Do you feel as if you are falling?
• Does your vision ever become “blurred?”
• Do you ever feel disoriented lose a sense of time, place or identify?
Source: National Institute on Aging
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All health concerns should be addressed by a qualified health care professional
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