What are the signs of balance problems?
Balance symptoms, such as dizziness or vertigo, make you feel unsteady even if you are in a stable position, such as sitting still. Common balance symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, falling, the perception of spinning vision, and unsteadiness. Balance symptoms can also include weakness and confusion.
Lightheadedness is a feeling that one is going to faint. People with balance symptoms may also feel lightheaded.
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Balance symptoms are generally related to problems with the vestibular system of the inner ear. They may, however, be related to problems with the cerebellum of the brain, the spinal cord, or the visual, skeletal, or other body systems. Nutritional deficiencies, such as deficiency of vitamin B12, may also be a cause of balance problems. Balance symptoms are frequently related to the sense of proprioception, or position in space, which is determined by the joints and muscles as well as the vestibular system. Problems with balance can also arise due to head injury or poor circulation and can become more common as you get older.
Balance symptoms can be organized into several different classes, based on the underlying cause. In order to get an accurate diagnosis of your balance symptoms, you should consider contacting an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor). Proper treatment of the underlying cause of your balance symptoms can help to resolve them.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your balance symptoms are accompanied by life-threatening symptoms, including a high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); weakness or numbness on one side of the body; severe headache; changes in vision; slurred speech or speech difficulty; or a change in level of consciousness.
If your balance symptoms are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care. Often, balance symptoms can be treated easily so that you can return to your normal daily life.
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- Balance disorders. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/balance/balance_disorders.html.
- Dizziness. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003093.htm.
- Dros J, Maarsingh OR, van der Horst HE, et al. Tests used to evaluate dizziness in primary care. CMAJ 2010; 182:E621.
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