When you’re young, it’s easy to take your balance for granted. Controlling and maintaining your body’s position comfortably is instinctive, whether you’re walking, standing, climbing stairs, or sitting still. However, there are many common balance problems experienced by seniors. In fact, balance problems are amongst the most common reasons older adults visit the doctor (source). Because balance is so critically important – it’s necessary every day, as you go about your daily life – we encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor if you notice a change in your ability to balance.
Common Balance Problems Experienced by Seniors
Many body systems must work together for you to experience normal balance, including your visual system, somatosensory system, and vestibular system:
- Visual System: Your vision helps your brain make sense of your environment and your relation to it.
- Somatosensory System: Formed of sensory neurons and pathways, this complex system responds to changes on the surface of the body and inside the body (touch, vibration, pressure, stretching). It helps your brain understand the positioning of your body.
- Vestibular System: Located in the inner ear, the vestibular system is critical for balance because it helps your brain understand the position and movement of your head. It perceives when your body is moving despite the fact that you’re standing/sitting still (such as when you’re in an elevator, descending an escalator, or riding in a car).
Have you been struggling to stay upright lately? Or perhaps you often feel as if you need to sit down to steady yourself? Balance problems present a variety of symptoms, including all of the following:
- Vertigo (a sense of motion or spinning)
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Feeling as though you’re floating
- Vision changes, such as blurriness
- Feeling as though you’re falling down
Balance issues are especially problematic in older adults because they’re a common cause of falls, which can lead to injury, disability, a loss of independence, and a lowered quality of life. To better understand this issue, review our blog post Why Are Falls So Dangerous for the Elderly? In addition, check out our blog post Tips to Prevent Falls to better understand the other factors that increase your likelihood of falling, such as the shoes you wear, the obstacles in your path, and safety devices like night-lights and non-slip mats.
Causes of Balance Problems
Many balance problems experienced by seniors are the result of physical disorders and conditions, and there are often multiple factors involved. You doctor will likely need to perform a comprehensive physical evaluation to determine what issues are causing your balance struggles. Any of these conditions could be responsible for your imbalance:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Ménière’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome
- Head injury
- Motion sickness
- Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Cardiovascular disease
- Vestibular problems (such as vestibular neuritis, labyrinthitis)
- Nerve damage to the legs
- Joint or muscle problems
- Certain neurologic conditions
- Psychiatric disorders
Other times, balance problems result from weakened muscles or poor vision. For this reason, it’s important to visit your optometrist annually and get regular exercise.
Have you been struggling to remain steady on your feet? Or has someone you love mentioned that they often feel dizzy or lightheaded? Don’t risk your health – contact your doctor ASAP to get to the bottom of the issue.
If you’re looking for an assisted living community in Tennessee, check out Hearthside Senior Living in Collierville and Bartlett. We encourage our residents to live full and active lives, and our warm and inviting communities make it easy for seniors to embrace a healthy lifestyle. We offer home-cooked and restaurant-style meals, exercise classes, and a nurse devoted to residents’ health and wellness. To learn more about our amenities and services, please give us a call at 901-854-6590 or contact us online.