Updated: Jul 11, 2022
A balance disorder is a disturbance of the complex system of the body, which can cause a person to feel unsteady, woozy or have a sensation of floating or spinning when they are standing still or lying down. Our sense of balance is controlled by a maze-like structure in the inner ear made of bone and soft tissue called the labyrinth. At one end of the labyrinth is a detailed system of semicircular canals and otolithic organs which help maintain our balance. At the other end of the labyrinth is a snail-shaped organ called the cochlea. This is the organ allows us to hear. The labyrinth interacts with the visual and skeletal systems in the body to maintain the body’s position.
These systems, along with the brain and the nervous system, can be the source of balance problems. When you turn your head, the fluid inside the semicircular canals move, and nerve signals are sent to your brain to tell it which way your head has turned. When signals from any of the sensory systems malfunction, problems such as dizziness or vertigo can arise and cause significant balance problems.
Dizziness and balance problems can affect people of all ages, though the risk is greater as we age.
Causes of balance problems could include an inner ear condition, certain medications, a head injury or low blood pressure. Often times, balance disorders come out of the blue with no warning or obvious causes. About 15 percent of American adults suffer from balance or dizziness problems. We know how profoundly balance disorders can affect all daily activities and can lead to psychological hardship by not allowing a person to live a normal life. Symptoms can range from mild dizziness to a severe whirling sensation known as vertigo.
Other symptoms include:
Feeling as if you are going to fall
Staggering when walking
Disorientation and confusion
To avoid injury from these symptoms, wear flat or low-heeled shoes, do not walk in the dark, use handrails in the home and ask your doctor whether it is safe to drive. At ENT Specialists, our dizziness and balance treatment services include a comprehensive evaluation and testing by our physicians to determine the cause and type of your balance disorder. There are over a dozen different balance disorders, some more common than others. Management of the disorder with medication or physical therapy are options that will be discussed after your diagnosis.