Balance issues can come from many things as we age. Whether internal or external, reasons need to be looked at so balance issues can be corrected appropriately. The feeling of being dizzy, or lightheaded, when standing, seated, or even laying down can all have adverse effects on your balance. According to Mayo Clinic, “Many body systems-including your muscles, bones, joints, vision, the balance organ in the inner ear, nerves, heart and blood vessels-must work normally for you to have normal balance. When these systems are not functioning well, you may experience balance problems.”
Vertigo or dizziness affect some 70% of the population over the age of 65. Vertigo by definition is a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve. The most common cause of vertigo in adults is Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo(BPPV), which occurs when calcium crystals in your inner ear are dislodged from their normal positions and move inside the inner ear. A spinning sensation can occur when moving the head back to look up or turning in bed.
Some treatments can be vestibular therapy where a physical therapist works with you to help strengthen the vestibular system. The function of the vestibular system is to send signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity.
At home you can do a series of simple head movements, known as the Epley manoeuvre.
Medicines, such as prochlorperazine and some antihistamines, can help in the early stages or most cases of vertigo.
Vision impairments and changes such as vision loss or blurriness can upset someone’s balance. While vision may not appear to be the most important factor in keeping balance, the body needs them to maintain it normally. It takes the vestibular, vision, and proprioceptive systems working together to keep things level; but it is the vision which provides most of the necessary information.
The vestibular and proprioceptive systems work off the information the eyes and brain give them, helping with stability and position whether standing still or in motion. Vision is what serves as the main source of information for a person from childhood onward. The brain is used to process all the things we see and understand where we are at in the world and space we are in. While problems in either system can cause balance trouble, vision problems often cause a ripple effect in the other systems.
Treatment can be as simple as getting some glasses or contacts. A simple eye test done yearly is what is best. Many other tests will be done at that time and any vision issues will be known to go forward and treat.
Medications can increase your fall risk in many ways. From blurred vision to lightheadedness, drowsiness to delirium, a type of medication you take or the sheer number you take can affect your balance. Some medications even affect the inner ear, spurring temporary or permanent balance disorders. Some medications cause decreased blood pressure to the brain and can cause a feeling of dizziness. Ask your physician or pharmacist to look over the medications you are taking and their interactions with one another.
No matter the problem causing it, balance issues are a huge problem for the aging population. Studies have shown that 12.5 million seniors reported they suffered dizziness to the point it impaired them from their normal activities. More than one-third of adults over age 65 fall each year, some leading to bone fractures and sometimes death. Looking into underlying issues can start you on your journey to better balance. Along with your continued exercise to strengthen the body and work on your balance.
Stay happy and healthy and confident always!