What's Causing Balance Problems?

Seniors and Balance Problems

Our ability to balance without having to think about it is something most of us take for granted, but that can change as we age. At age 65, between 20 and 40% of us will experience a fall, and this can lead to hip fractures and other dire consequences.

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Changes in Health

Senior health often includes certain factors that cause this balance issue. Eye problems like cataracts, low blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy, arthritis or chronic nervous system diseases such as Parkinson's disease can all be contributing factors to becoming dizzy or lightheaded.


Many elderly people have a range of health conditions that require medication, both prescription and over the counter. Alone or combined these can cause balance problems. Your sense of balance may be affected by some of these drugs:

Common Balance Disorders

Labyrinthitis or acute vestibular neuritis can cause swelling and inflammation in your inner ear and may be caused by upper respiratory infections, allergies or stress. It generally clears up without treatment.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV occurs when normal calcium crystals in your inner ear break loose and travel into one of the ear canals, causing severe vertigo which worsens with movements like changing head position or standing up. BPPV comes on suddenly and powerfully and is the most common cause of vertigo in older people; it may be accompanied by blurred vision, nausea or migraines

Meniere's Disease

The rarer Meniere's disease can appear at any age, but is most common for those over 50. A build-up of fluid causes this long-term condition which is often accompanied by intermittent hearing loss and ringing in the ear (tinnitus). Meniere's disease can result from viral infections, allergies, or any number of other factors.

Vestibular Migraine

Migraines that create a feeling of vertigo or other severe conditions of dizziness either during the migraine or in between migraines are called Vestibular Migraines.

Acoustic Neuroma

This is a non-cancerous (benign) growth on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. Signs of this problem may include imbalance, vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus in one ear.


This disorder involves suddenly feeling lightheaded or faint. It is extremely common in those over 60, and is often brought on by heart disease, diabetes or other chronic conditions. This can also be caused by sudden low blood pressure or anxiety disorders.

Hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure that occurs within three minutes after you stand up and causes you to feel dizzy or off-balance. It lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes, and can leave you feeling nauseated and clammy. Hypotension is extremely common in seniors and can be caused by heart problems, dehydration, diabetes or nervous system disorders.

Balance also depends on muscle strength and joint mobility, both of which can diminish as we age. It is important to keep up an exercise regimen and to let your doctor know about any symptoms that point to balance problems, so a correct diagnosis and treatment can begin.

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