How worried should we be about balance disorders?
A balance disorder is a disturbance of an individual’s physical functions which make him or her experience unsteadiness, giddiness, wooziness, a moving or even a spinning or a floating sensation.
We might be taking our balance for granted if you think that it is a result of excellent syncing of several body systems and of the way in which they can harmoniously work together. The main elements that lead to our balance are the visual system, the vestibular system and the proprioception. Simply put, the eyes, the ears and the sense of where we are in space are essential though second to the brain’s ability to compile information and send out “orders”.
Disruption of you body’s balance is very common partly because it can be the form of expression for many pathologies ranging from low blood pressure in the best case and brain tumors or strokes, in the worst case. Considering the later possibility, no physical imbalance should be ignored.
A balance disorder can be cause therefore even by an infection in the ear. However, a head injury, or blood circulation disorders that affect the inner ear or brain are more common causes. Sometimes it can simply be the result of getting older.
From a different standpoint, problems in the visual, skeletal systems, the nervous and circulatory systems can also be the source of balance problems. For example, low blood pressure can cause dizziness when we suddenly stand up. Arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, as examples of disturbances in the skeletal and visual system, also may cause balance problems. Even so, most balance problems appear all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with no apparent cause.
Balance disorders can be called in many different ways like lightheaded, floating, woozy, confused, helpless, fuzzy in daily life but in the medical field they are referred to as vertigo, disequilibrium and pre-syncope. These distinctions are used to tell between severity of the conditions the imbalance indicates.
Here’s how you can tell between them. Vertigo is when you have a spinning sensation either of yourself or of the room around you. This condition is quite disturbing and it is most commonly accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Disequilibrium is the sensation or being off balance and it most likely results in frequent falls. These falls are oddly enough always in a specific direction. Pre-syncope is a sensation of weakness, of feeling lightheaded or fain. This occurs usually before fainting (syncope).
Diagnosing balance disorder is, as you’ve probably already guessed, quite complicated. There are many medical conditions that can contribute or act like important variables in the offset of balance disorders. There are even some medications that can cause these disorders, so a medical examination is essential and you should tell your doctor everything he asks about no matter how relevant you think that information is. After your physician evaluates your case you might need to see a physiotherapist as he can assess balance in detail.
The opinion of an otolaryngologist might also be necessary before ruling out any underlying medical condition. This specialist is a physician/surgeon who specializes in disorders of the ear, nose, head, neck, throat and can even specialize in balance disorders. All in all, a rigorous examination and a medical history are about what you need to ease your mind.
Specialized tests must be necessary if there’s still a question of your health status. Tests of your vestibular system for example, can include a electronystagmography(ENG), a Videoystagmograph(VNG), a rotation test, a Computerized Dynamic Posturography and a Caloric reflex test. Your auditory system can be tested through pure-tone audiometry, speech audiomtery, acoustic-reflex and many other test you are better off asking your physician about. Other tests can include magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) and computerized axial tomography(CAT).
Everyone has a dizzy spell now and then, but the term “dizziness” may mean something different to different people. For some people, dizziness might be a fleeting sensation of spinning, while for others it’s intense and lasts a long time. Experts believe that more than four out of 10 Americans will experience an episode of dizziness significant enough to send them to a doctor.
Here’s how you can tell if you should reconsider your ocassional dizzy spell. You can start by asking yourself these questions: do I feel unsteady?; do I feel like the room is spinning around me?; Do I feel as if I’m moving when I know I’m sitting still?; do I sometimes lose my balance and fall?; do I feel as if I am free falling?; do I feel lightheaded or faint?; do I experience blurred vision during the dizzy spells?; do I lose my sense of time or space? These are some of the questions that are actually common sense to ask yourself and immediately seek a doctor’s attention if the answers are affirmative.
Treatment can vary from physiotherapy and medicine, to diet changes or learning how to cope with balance disorder on a daily basis, if it cannot be cured completely.11