What Is a Balance Disorder?
You don't have to feel dizzy...
A balance disorder is a disturbance that causes an individual to feel unsteady, giddy, woozy, or have a sensation of movement, spinning, or floating. An organ in our inner ear, the labyrinth, is an important part of our vestibular (balance) system. The labyrinth interacts with other systems in the body, such as the visual (eyes) and skeletal (bones and joints) systems, to maintain the body's position. These systems, along with the brain and the nervous system, can be the source of balance problems.
Three structures of the labyrinth, the semicircular canals, let us know when we are in a rotary (circular) motion. Movement of fluid through these canals signals the brain with information on direction and speed of the head. This feedback then directs the movement of the eyes to match the movement of the head.
The inner ear can be affected by illness, infection, disease, head trauma or simply the natural aging process. The inner ear is one of three components that contributes to maintaining equilibrium. Combined with vision and somatosensory, or input from certain joints in the extremities, the three sensory receptors must all provide the the brain with proper input in order to execute correct movement of our musculoskeletal system to maintain our center of gravity. If any one component of this system does not work properly then we are at risk to lose our balance or coordination.
The Symptoms of Balance Disorders
When balance is impaired, an individual has difficulty maintaining orientation. For example, an individual may experience the "room spinning" and may not be able to walk without staggering, or may not even be able to arise. Some of the symptoms a person with a balance disorder may experience are:
- A sensation of dizziness or vertigo (spinning)
- Falling or a feeling of falling.
- Lightheadedness or feeling woozy.
- Visual blurring.
Some individuals may also experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, faintness, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, fear, anxiety, or panic. Some reactions to the symptoms are fatigue, depression, and decreased concentration. The symptoms may appear and disappear over short time periods or may last for a longer period of time.
How To Treat Balance Disorders
Vestibular Rehabilitation and Balance Retraining programs can help improve the body’s balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falling. This is part of a comprehensive Physical Therapy program that may also include targeted muscle strengthening exercises as well as prescribed medications recommended by a medical physician. Typically physical therapy sessions last 45 minutes to 1 hour 2-3 times per week, for 4-8 weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the patients tolerance to treatment.
Coastal Care Medical Center offers technologically advanced balance testing with the VideoNystagmography (VNG), a diagnostic tool capable of directly observing and recording eye movements during specific conditions. Two infrared video cameras are mounted in a pair of goggles, which is worn over the eyes during the test. The cameras record how your eyes move under different condition.
This provides important information concerning your body's ability to coordinate eye and head movement, as well as assesses the ability to maintain a stable image as you move through your daily activities
Detection of abnormal eye movements under the varying test conditions helps detect a variety of pathological conditions which leads to a more accurate diagnosis.