Balance Disorders

Normal balance requires the work of three sensory systems: the visual; the vestibular, which is located in the inner ear; and the somatosensory, which involves the muscular and skeletal systems. These systems, as well as the brain and nervous systems, can be the source of balance problems. When these systems do not function properly, vertigo, spinning, disorientation, trouble focusing the eyes, and poor balance may result.

Types of Balance Disorders

Most balance disorders result from problems in the vestibular system, and are caused by injury or infection. Identifying the underlying cause and the type of balance disorder is important for successful treatment. When a cause for a balance disorder is determined, a specific treatment plan can be created. Balance disorders are commonly characterized by their symptoms or causes. Common balance disorders may include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Meniere's disease
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Perilymph fistula

Treatment for Balance Disorders

Treatment for a balance disorder depends on its cause, and treating its cause may eliminate the disorder. For others, the following treatments may help to relieve symptoms:

  • Balance-training exercises
  • Lifestyle changes (such as limiting alcohol and caffeine)
  • Antibiotics for ear infections
  • Anti-vertigo and anti-nausea medications

A vestibular rehabilitation therapist can also help patients by developing treatment plans that combine head, body and eye exercises designed to decrease dizziness and nausea. Surgery on the vestibular organs may be recommended for patients whose symptoms cannot be controlled by more conservative methods.

Additional Resources