Dizziness and Balance
Our sense of balance is primarily controlled by a maze-like structure in our inner ear called the labyrinth, which is made of bone and soft tissue. At one end of the labyrinth is an intricate system of loops and pouches called the semicircular canals and the otolithic organs, which help maintain our balance. At the other end is the cochlea, which enables us to hear.
Balance disorders can be caused by viral or bacterial infections in the ear, a head injury, or blood circulation disorders that affect the inner ear or brain. Other causes include Ménière’s disease, migraine headaches, certain antibiotics and ototoxic medications, and other inner ear problems. A condition in which a person experiences an intense sensation of spinning whenever they change their head position is known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. It is one of the most common balance disorders.
When balance is impaired, it’s difficult to maintain orientation, which can be experienced as a number of different symptoms. Inner ear dizziness or vertigo is a common symptom, and it can make you feel like the room is spinning. Other symptoms include:
- Falling or a feeling of falling
- Mental or physical fatigue
- Blurred vision or difficulty reading
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disorientation or confusion, and
- Fear, anxiety, or panic
Symptoms may come and go, or they may persist for long periods of time.
Balance disorders are often hard to diagnose because there are several different kinds of balance disorders and because other medical conditions can contribute to balance issues. Your provider may order several types of tests to determine what might be affecting your balance. These tests can include hearing tests, CT or MRI scans, and tests that measure your ability to maintain balance under different conditions.