Have you ever felt unsteady on your feet or like the world around you was spinning? If so, you may have been experiencing a symptom of a balance disorder. Understanding how your balance system works can help you know when you should seek help if something feels amiss.
Parts of Your Balance System
Your balance system processes three types of sensory input: what you see, what you feel and the movement you sense.
Within your inner ear are semicircular canals, which contain liquid that moves in relation to where your body is in space. This organ tells your brain the speed and direction your head is moving and turning.
The information gathered from your visual system, i.e., your eyes, tells your brain your body’s position in relationship to its surroundings.
Input from your musculoskeletal system, which includes your muscles and joints, sends information to your brain about what your body is touching.
Your brain processes these inputs and uses this information to keep you balanced. If you are walking through Gathering Place, your inner ear tells your brain you are moving forward, your eyes tells your brain you are standing up and your musculoskeletal system tells your brain you are walking down a rocky path.
Symptoms of a Balance Disorder
If a problem occurs in one of these systems, you may experience:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Falling or feeling like you are going to fall
- Lightheadedness, faintness or a floating sensation
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
The Severity of Falls
Falls are serious, and an untreated balance disorder can have severe consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four people 65 and older fall each year. One in five of these falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.
How to Know if You Have a Balance Disorder
The National Institute on Aging put together this balance problem self-assessment. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should consult a doctor.
- Do I feel unsteady?
- Do I feel as if the room is spinning around me, even only for brief periods of time?
- Do I feel as if I’m moving when I know I’m standing or sitting still?
- Do I lose my balance and fall?
- Do I feel as if I’m falling?
- Do I feel lightheaded or as if I might faint?
- Does my vision become blurred?
- Do I ever feel disoriented, losing my sense of time, place or identity?
To learn more about balance disorders or to schedule an appointment with an expert, contact Eastern Oklahoma ENT today.