BALANCE DISORDERS


Balance is the outcome of the combined functioning of the visual system, vestibular system and proprioception. A series of signals that pass from the vestibular organs in the inner ear, through vestibular nerve, to the brain are responsible for the sense of physical balance, or equilibrium. Balance disorders are disturbance that causes an individual to feel unsteady. It may be accompanied by feelings of giddiness or wooziness, or having a sensation of movement, spinning, or floating. A sudden change in body position disturb the complex system of fluid-filled chambers called labyrinth and stimulate the vestibular apparatus which later passes the messages to the balance centers of the brain.

Abnormalities affecting any part of this system can lead to dizziness, vertigo, and other balance disorders. An individual is unable to maintain the upright orientation in balance problems.

Causes: Balance disorders can be caused by certain health conditions, medications, or a problem in the inner ear or the brain. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease or injury damages these processing areas, vestibular disorders can result.

Balance and inner ear: Disorders of inner ear can cause dizziness or vertigo. A person with vertigo may feel as though he is spinning around in space. This is called subjective vertigo. Another type of vertigo is called objective vertigo. A person with this disorder feels he is standing still while his surroundings are turning around him. About one third of persons with vertigo have a disorder of the nerve that ends in the part of the inner ear called the labyrinth. Inner ear infection with virus or bacteria can cause dizziness. Balance problems and dizziness also can result from taking certain medications.

In addition, problems in the visual and skeletal systems and the nervous and circulatory systems can be the source of some posture and balance problems. Ménière's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo, low pitched tinnitus, and hearing loss. The exact cause of Ménière's syndrome is unknown. It may occur when the pressure of the fluid in part of the inner ear gets too high. It can also be due to head injury or allergy or alcohol use.

Symptoms: A sensation of dizziness or vertigo, lightheadedness or feeling woozy, disorientation, blurred vision. Other symptoms are nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and fear, anxiety, or panic. Some people also feel tired, depressed, or unable to concentrate. Symptoms may come and go over short time periods or last for longer periods of time.

Treatment for dizziness:
There are various options for treating balance disorders. Primary balance treatment is for a disease or disorder that may be contributing to the balance problem. Individual vertigo/dizziness treatment is based upon assessment results including symptoms, medical history, general health, and the results of medical tests. Most types of balance disorders will require balance training, prescribed by a physiotherapist. Dietary changes such as reducing intake of sodium, reducing alcohol, caffeine, and/or avoiding nicotine may be helpful. Amino glycoside antibiotics (gentamicin) can be used to treat Ménière's disease. Surgery for Ménière's disease includes; Vestibular therapy involves drilling into the skull and cutting the balance nerve can cure Ménière's disease; Labyrinthectomy involves the surgical removal of the whole balance organ.
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