8 Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Balance

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on July 4, 2021
  • Human ear
    1. Inner Ear Problems
    Problems with the inner ear—or vestibular system—are the most common cause of balance disorders. Your vestibular system senses when you move your head, your body movements, and your position in space. It sends this information to your brain. When your vestibular system doesn’t work right, you can end up feeling unsteady, dizzy or lightheaded. You may also feel the sensation of movement when you are sitting still. Inner ear problems include labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease, among others.
  • Close up of womans eyes
    2. Vision Problems
    Along with your vestibular system, your brain receives input from your eyes to coordinate your balance. In fact, 20% of the nerves from your eyes interact with your vestibular system for balance. Your eyes tell your brain how you are oriented relative to your surroundings. Problems with eye movements, depth perception, double vision, and imbalances between the eyes can all lead to issues with balance.
  • Man suffering from Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis standing near steps
    3. Muscle and Joint Problems
    The third major component of balance is proprioception. That’s a fancy word for sensing the position and actions of your limbs and trunk. Close your eyes and touch your nose—that’s proprioception! Your brain gets this information from your body itself—your skin, muscles and joints. Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other degenerative disorders can affect your balance by disrupting normal proprioception. They also interfere with motor control. But even simple muscle fatigue or weakness can cause problems.
  • Serious doctor examining brain scan
    4. Nervous System Problems
    Your nervous system relays sensory input from your vestibular system, eyes, and body to your brain. Your brain integrates and interprets this input to give you a sense of balance and equilibrium. Balance problems can result if any part of your nervous system isn’t working right. This includes your brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Stroke, head injury, spinal cord injury, and peripheral neuropathies are examples of nervous system problems that can cause balance problems.
  • Man with hand on his chest, seeing doctor
    5. Heart Problems
    You may wonder what your heart has to do with balance. Blood flow is the link. To keep your systems working properly, they need adequate blood flow. Anything that interferes with normal blood flow throughout your body and brain can result in balance and dizziness problems. This includes low blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart failure, and heart valve disease. Low blood pressure can have various causes, including dehydration, anemia, and endocrine problems.
  • Woman frowning with head in hands
    6. Anxiety and Stress
    Emotional stress and anxiety can cause changes in your body that affect balance. First, stress changes the way your brain responds to and processes stimuli. It’s possible to lose some automatic balance reflexes during periods of heightened stress. Stress and anxiety can also bring on hyperventilation, which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain. This leads to lightheadedness and dizziness.
  • Mature Woman Doing Blood Sugar Test at home
    7. Diabetes
    Diabetes can cause dizziness and balance problems by its effects on other systems. When diabetes is poorly controlled, vision problems and peripheral neuropathies are more likely. And diabetes can contribute to low blood pressure. But diabetes’ effect on blood sugar can also contribute dizziness and balance problems. High or low blood sugar can cause blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, weakness, and lack of motor coordination.
  • Mixed race man examining prescription bottles
    8. Medications
    Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause dizziness or problems with balance. . Common examples include antihistamines, sleep aids, sedatives, blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, narcotics, and antiseizure medicines. Combining these medicines with alcohol can make dizziness and balance problems worse. If you experience balance issues and you take medications, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Find out if your medicine could be contributing to your problems.
8 Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Balance
  1. Balance & Illusions of Movement. Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association. https://nora.cc/balance-a-illusions-of-movement-mainmenu-68.html 
  2. Balance Disorders. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/balance/pages/balance_disorders.aspx 
  3. Balance Problems. Health in Aging Foundation and the American Geriatrics Society. http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:balance-problems/info:causes-and-symptoms... 
  4. Balance Problems. National Institute on Aging. https://nihseniorhealth.gov/balanceproblems/causesriskfactorsandprevention/01.html 
  5. Dizziness, Vertigo, Disequilibrium. Vestibular Disorders Association. http://vestibular.org/node/2 
  6. The Human Balance System. Vestibular Disorders Association. http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder/human-balance-system
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 4
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