What Causes Dizziness, Vertigo, and Balance Problems?
A balance disorder is a condition that makes you feel dizzy or unsteady, inducing the sensation of spinning or floating or moving. And although abbreviated or trivial episodes of dizziness are common and no cause for concern, more severe sensations of spinning (vertigo) or long term dizzy spells should be evaluated.
Along with dizziness, you may also experience other symptoms including nausea, variations in heart rate, anxiety, or panic. Again, if these episodes are especially severe or prolonged, it’s wise to seek professional care.
The types and causes of balance disorders are numerous, but before we get to that, let’s briefly review how the body normally preserves its sense of balance.
How the body maintains its balance
We take our body’s ability to maintain balance for granted because it typically operates effortlessly behind-the-scenes. But when you think about it, maintaining balance is really an impressive feat.
Even in motion, your body is able to perceive its location in space and make modifications to hold your body upright, while calling for little to any mindful regulation. Even when you close your eyes, and eliminate all visual cues, you can accurately sense the position of your head as you shift it up or down, left or right.
That’s because your vestibular system—the assortment of organs and structures in your inner ear—can sense any changes in your head position, transmitting nerve signals to advise your brain of the change.
Structures in the inner ear known as semicircular canals consist of three fluid-filled ducts positioned at approximately right angles to each other. When you move your head, the fluid moves together with it, stimulating the nerve cells that send the information to your brain.
This, coupled with visual cues and musculoskeletal sensory information, signals the brain to precise changes in head and body position.
Common balance disorders and causes
Balance disorders are a consequence of a disruption within the vestibular system or with the brain and its capacity to evaluate and act on the information.
Balance disorders can for that reason be caused by anything that influences the inner ear or brain. This list includes, but is not restricted to, medications, benign tumors, ear infections, head injuries, low blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions, and some neurological conditions.
Common balance disorders include Meniere’s Disease, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), Labyrinthitis, Vestibular Neuronitis, along with many others. Each disorder has its own specific causes and symptoms and can be diagnosed only by a professional.
Diagnosis and treatment of balance disorders
The diagnosis and treatment of any balance disorder begins by ruling out any medical conditions or medications that might be producing the symptoms. You may need to change medications or seek treatment for any underlying cardiovascular, neurological, or musculoskeletal condition.
If your balance problem is caused by problems with the inner ear, such as with Meniere’s Disease, treatment may include things like diet and lifestyle changes, physical manipulations of the head, or medications to lessen the symptoms. Your healthcare provider can offer more information specified to your condition and symptoms.