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Balance disorders are disturbances that make us feel unsteady on our feet or dizzy, as though we’re moving, spinning, or floating. The dizziness can happen when we’re standing, sitting down, or lying down.
Our balance is maintained by our eyes, ears, and proprioception, the body’s sense of where it is. Disturbances to any of those senses can affect our balance.
Certain medical conditions can cause balance disorders. Other causes include medications, problems in the inner ear or eyes, brain injuries including strokes, or low blood pressure.
Balance Disorders and Dizziness
Balance (vestibular) disorders encompass such things as dizziness, vertigo, disequilibrium, or a general sense of being unsteady on your feet. More than 25 million Americans are affected by balance disturbances. Frequently, those affected already suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss. These disturbances can reduce the quality of life and interfere with work and social interactions regardless of age.
With the general decrease in balance that accompanies the aging process, it is essential that your dizziness or balance problems are not solely attributed to the normal consequences of aging until you undergo a thorough evaluation. Frequently, a specific cause can be identified and successfully treated, and in those cases where a specific cause remains elusive, vestibular rehabilitation often provides significant benefit.
Balance, or the sensation of equilibrium, is regulated by the peripheral vestibular system and the cerebellum, with complex input from the visual and proprioceptive systems. Thorough evaluation and treatment requires close interaction between related medical specialties and access to sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.
Coordination of biomedical specialists in our basic science laboratories and the availability of comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic modalities at UT Southwestern make our Hearing, Balance, and Facial Nerve Disorders division unique to this part of the country.
Besides a feeling of unsteadiness, symptoms of balance disorders also include nausea, blurred vision, and hearing loss.
To determine the cause of your balance condition, your UT Southwestern doctor will perform a physical exam and review your medical history. He or she will also conduct a series of tests that will check many factors, including your ears’ electrical system, the location of any injury or nerve disorder, and amount of sway while standing still to measure motor skills.
Treatment options depend on the cause but can include balance retraining exercises, diet, surgery, or medications. You and your doctor will work together to decide which treatment option is best for you.
UT Southwestern’s ear, nose, and throat specialists can diagnose and treat your balance condition and help you get back on your feet with confidence.