Balance Disorder Q&A

What are balance disorders?

Often inappropriately described as “vertigo,” balance problems can make you feel like the room is revolving around you, as if you’re leaning to one side as you walk or the perfectly solid ground under your feet is rocking like a boat. You might also feel unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded, or confused.

It’s normal to feel a brief episode of dizziness or unsteadiness every now and then, which may be related to something as simple as skipping lunch. However, when these symptoms occur frequently, sometimes throughout the day, they can severely impact your quality of life.

What is vertigo and how is it different than dizziness?

Vertigo describes a type of balance dysfunction or dizziness that has a rotational or spinning component. You may, for instance, feel as if you’re revolving or that your environment is spinning around you. Sudden head motions, such as looking down when climbing a ladder or tilting your head back to look up, often trigger vertigo and greatly increase your risk of a fall.

Dizziness, on the other hand, is a feeling of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness. You may also feel as if you’re floating when you’re dizzy, but there’s no true spinning involved. Being able to describe the characteristics of the sensations you’re experiencing helps Dr. Khan narrow the potential causes of your balance disorder.

What causes balance disorders?

Sometimes these symptoms are caused by temporary issues such as an ear infection or another underlying condition that’s easily treated. Other underlying conditions may require more extensive treatment and specialized therapy to help you regain your sense of steadiness.

These include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is the most common cause of vertigo and occurs when calcium crystals in your inner ear that help control your balance move from their normal positions
  • Neuromuscular disorders, such as diabetic neuropathy
  • Vestibular neuritis, an inflammatory disorder believed to be caused by a virus affecting the nerves in the balance portion of your inner ear
  • Stroke or other cardiovascular problems

What is the treatment for balance disorders?

Depending on what’s causing your balance problems, Dr. Kahn may recommend:

  • Balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation)
  • Certain guided head movements for BPPV that repositions calcium particles in your ear
  • Medications that control dizziness and vomiting

If you’re experiencing bouts of dizziness or other issues with balance, make an appointment today with Dr. Khan.


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