The balance system detects position and movement of the head in relation to gravity, relaying signals from the eyes, bones and joints to the brain and nervous system to maintain equilibrium. When these signals are disrupted, balance disorders can result.
What are Balance Disorders?
A balance disorder is defined as any condition that causes you to feel dizzy or unsteady. Two of the most common examples are dizziness and vertigo.
Dizziness is characterized by a feeling of lightheadedness, causing many patients to feel as though they are going to faint. This may be accompanied by nausea, disorientation, confusion and a sensation of floating.
Vertigo is the feeling that your environment is moving around you, and is frequently described as a spinning sensation. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, double vision, tinnitus, fullness in the ear and hearing loss.
Each condition may be caused by a variety of factors. Dizziness often occurs in response to a sudden drop in blood pressure, such as that experienced when standing up quickly after being seated for a while. Ear infections, neurological disorders, inner ear abnormalities, anemia and other conditions can trigger dizziness. Vertigo typically occurs due to false signals being transmitted from the vestibular system to the brain, a result of factors such as calcium crystals “floating” in the inner ear, inflammation of the inner ear, benign tumors on the vestibular nerve, an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease that causes excess fluid accumulation or other types of vestibular dysfunction.
Treating Dizziness & Vertigo
Patients experiencing sensations of dizziness, lightheadedness or vertigo will undergo balance testing in order to determine the cause of their symptoms.
Treatment will vary depending on the condition. Solutions might involve medications such as antihistamines, sedatives or antibiotics; surgery; physical therapy; vestibular rehabilitation exercises; and/or lifestyle modifications including dietary changes and refraining from smoking.