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Dizziness & Balance Disorders

What Are Dizziness & Balance Disorders?

Dizziness is a sensation of unsteadiness or spinning. When people are dizzy, they may feel as if they’re spinning or floating. Dizziness can occur as a result of normal daily activities, such as standing up too quickly. However, more serious bouts of dizziness may be the result or symptom of a balance disorder.

Balance disorders refer to a range of conditions that cause symptoms of dizziness, including feeling like you’re floating, spinning or moving even while remaining still. While the occasional dizzy spell is normal, balance disorders cause chronic unsteadiness, which can present significant risk to overall health and lifestyle. Common balance disorders include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — This is a sensation of spinning lasting seconds to minutes following quick head movements. BPPV results from loose inner ear crystals and can be readily treated.

  • Middle ear effusions — Otherwise known as serous otitis media, fluid in the middle ear can cause imbalance and spinning vertigo.

  • Middle ear infections — Infections of the middle ear (otitis media) can cause imbalance and spinning dizziness.

  • Ménière’s Disease — This condition affects the inner ear and can cause severe dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus. This disease occurs when fluid builds up in the inner ear, blocking signals to areas of the brain that control balance.

  • Vestibular neuritis — Characterized as a sensation of continuous spinning vertigo lasting for many hours to days, this is due to a viral infection in the inner ear balance system.

  • Acoustic neuroma — Also known as vestibular schwannoma, these tumors of the balance nerves can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, imbalance, and rarely can also cause spinning vertigo.

Symptoms

Balance disorder symptoms can vary dramatically in terms of frequency and severity. More occasional or intense symptoms can ultimately have a profound impact on overall health and quality of life. The most common balance disorder symptoms include:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness — Feelings of unbalance, floating or spinning are common and can lead to falls or injuries.

  • Blurred vision — Objects both near and far may appear fuzzy or poorly defined.

  • Nausea — Feelings of sickness or vomiting often accompany other symptoms.

Treatment Options

Treating balance disorders first requires a clear diagnosis. In the event that a disorder is caused by an underlying ear problem, such as an infection, addressing the primary issue first may address dizziness or vertigo. Most often, treatment includes:

  • Medication — Prescription medications, including anti-nausea medications, steroids, migraine medications, or antibiotics, can provide relief during bouts of dizziness or vertigo. Commonly used over the counter medications for dizziness, including meclizine, antivert, and bonine, can make balance much worse, and should be avoided for most patients with imbalance.

  • Balance (vestibular) therapy — Therapy that improves the balance function is often used for the treatment of a number of balance problems.

  • Behavioral change — Altering some lifestyle factors, such as sodium intake, can help minimize the impacts of balance disorders.

  • Surgery — In more severe cases, doctors can stabilize the inner ear with a corrective surgery, or they may use a destructive surgical procedures to prevent the inner ear and brain from working together.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of dizziness & balance disorders, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

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