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
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 No. 1 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 positional vertigo, 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.
How Your Balance System Works
Your ability to achieve and maintain balance depends on your brain coordinating input from three sources, integrating the input, and sending output to your eyes and muscles. The three sources are:
- Vision. Your eyes send information to your brain about where you are relative to the objects around you.
- Proprioception. This ten-dollar word is simply your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location. Your skin, muscles, and joints constantly send messages to your brain about what position you’re in and what you’re doing.
- Vestibular system. This is named for the vestibule, a part of your inner ear. This system is responsible for providing your brain with information about your head’s motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation. There are many small structures that all work together to constantly send your brain information.
Your brain sorts all this data and combines it with information from the parts of your brain responsible for coordination, thinking, and memory. Then it sends messages that control the movements of your eyes, head and neck, torso, and legs to ensure continued balance.
When your balance system works properly, you see clearly while moving, stay oriented with respect to gravity, know your direction and speed, and automatically make posture adjustments to maintain stability.
Causes of Balance Problems
For many people, balance problems set in because of age-related issues such as cardiovascular disease, stiff or damaged joints, or an autoimmune condition. But the inner ear is the most common source of these disorders for all ages, from fluid imbalances to bone damage.
Symptoms range from short and mild to chronic and debilitating. Some common ones are general unsteadiness, vertigo (a spinning sensation), noise or light sensitivity, nausea, coordination problems, and concentration or memory issues.
Vertigo Testing and Treatment
BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo) is the most common type of vertigo and makes up approximately 50 percent of vertigo complaints, particularly in older individuals. With BPPV, tiny particles made up of calcium and protein form and break off into the inner ear canals. Head movements cause these particles to shift the inner ear’s nerve hairs, which send signals to the brain that initiate the sensation of vertigo. BPPV is characterized by bouts of vertigo that can be accompanied by weak facial muscles, reduced cognitive function, and hearing loss. Common causes of this type of vertigo include head injuries, infection, and inner-ear degeneration due to aging.
Hearing Health Care, Inc. provides expert care for vertigo, which can help you feel relief from the symptoms you are experiencing. Please contact us today for a consultation of your unique dizziness and balance difficulties.