The 5 Most Common Balance Problems in Older Adults
When you're younger, good balance is mostly a matter of keeping your core muscles strong, and maybe feeling lucky you didn't inherit the family gene for clumsiness. As we age, weakness in muscles and/or poor vision can compromise our ability to remain steady on our feet, as can some medications. However, the natural aging process doesn't have to mean you're constantly on the brink of falling.
If you or an older loved one is struggling to remain steady on your feet, the cause might be something other than age. Balance problems can stem from a specific injury, disorder, or disease. The five most common balance problems are considered:
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BPPV is one of the most common types of balance disorders. Few people have probably heard of it, but if you're over the age of 60, keep an eye out for it's primary symptom: intense vertigo when moving your head. This can occur even when you're merely rolling over in bed. It's an inner ear disturbance that has a number of causes, including a head injury, an ear infection, and aging.
2. Meniere's Disease
The NIH also lists this as a common cause of balance problems. One sign of the disease is a "full" feeling in the ear. People with Meniere's Disease also may experience vertigo, ringing in the ears, and sporadic hearing loss. Hearing loss can affect balance and increase the risk of falls.
When the inner ear becomes infected and inflamed, the result can be balance problems. Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infect on often linked to the flu.
4. Chronic Conditions
Certain chronic conditions can result in balance problems, too. If you have eye problems, for example, you may find it more difficult to keep your balance.
Long-term medical condition that affects the nervous system can have an impact on balance too, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Multiple Sclerosis are just a few.
5. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Older adults may be more prone to shingles, a skin condition caused by a virus. In some cases, the shingles virus can affect facial nerves near the ear. This condition is called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. The vertigo experienced by people with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is often accompanied by ear pain and loss of the ability to hear. If you or your senior loved one experience these symptoms, seek medical help.
As you or a loved one ages, it is important to plan for future care to manage balance and falls as they occur. If balance problems persist, it is important to take a hard look at the older adult's home environment. Is an older home with poor lighting or multiple sets of stairs putting them at greater risk for a fall? Falls happen to one of three older Americans each year and remain a leading cause of disability among seniors. It may be time to consider in-home care or a move to a community that is designed to meet the unique needs of older adults.
Do you worry about your loved one falling or their safety when you're not around? If so, our traditional care could be right for you and your family! Our Care Partners can come to your home anywhere from 2-24 hours a day to keep your loved one safe and healthy, giving you peace of mind! Contact us today!
Written by: Care Manager - Kelly Foster, LPN