You might not know it, but balance disorders are much more common than you’d think. According to a 2008 study, roughly 15% or 33 million Americans were living with balance or dizziness conditions. That’s a pretty remarkable number considering how disabling a balance disorder can be. Although the severity of the condition can vary, it has a very real impact on your quality of life regardless.
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 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.
Diagnosing a Balance Disorder
Dr. Khan will perform a full evaluation and may order tests like an MRI scan or a CT scan to differentiate Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, the most common cause of vertigo, from the most serious causes of dizziness, such as CP angel tumor or Vestibular Schwannoma, Multiple sclerosis, Autonomic Dysfunction or Dysautonomia, TIA, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem.
The Arizona Institute of Neurology & Polysomnography is home to many of the most advanced tests available in our region for evaluating the inner ear and the physical causes of balance problems, dizziness, and vertigo, including:
- Videonystagmography (VNG)
- Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP)
- Brain Stem Evoked potential study (BAEP)
- Autonomic nervous system testing (RR interval Test)
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.
- 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
Symptoms of Balance Disorders:
- Tendency to fall
- Fearing that you will fall
- Trouble maintaining your balance
- Drifting to one side when you walk
- Feel like you are on a “rocking boat”
If you’re suffering from Vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance, you may feel unsure of yourself and worried about what’s wrong. At the Arizona Institute of Neurology & Polysomnography, we can help, with advanced testing and specialized treatment from a board-certified neurologist, Dr. Khan. Neurology is one of the medical specialties devoted to evaluating and treating balance disorders, and Dr. Khan has 17 years of experience helping people with these kinds of 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 balance issues, make an appointment today with Dr. Khan.
Balance Training in Casa Grande
For most people with dizziness, vertigo, and other balance disorders, physical rehabilitation, and balance training work wonders. At Arizona Institute of Neurology & Polysomnography, we work very close to most of the Physical Therapy places, who offer balance training and rehab, under the direction of Dr. Khan.
Safety Tips to Keep you on Your Feet
- Make sure your home is well lit, with easily accessible lights and nightlights.
- Keep a flashlight handy in case you need to get up during the night.
- Keep your home free from clutter and anything that might cause you to trip, like throw rugs.
- Use handrails on stairs and special grab bars in the bathroom. Install adhesives in the bathtub and shower.
- If you’ve been lying down or sitting, stand up slowly, and give yourself time to adjust.
- Make sure your shoes fit properly and have slip-resistant soles.
- Avoid driving until your dizziness or balance problem gets under control – ask a friend or family member to drive you.
These tips will help you avoid a dangerous fall or other accident. Remember to be patient with yourself and follow your doctor’s orders.
Want to Learn More About Balance Disorders?
At the Arizona Institute of Neurology & Polysomnography, we are committed to giving you an accurate diagnosis and offering therapeutic options that can help you manage or improve your condition. We want to help our patients restore their quality of life and live worry-free.