As far back as 2008, about 33 million American adults lived with balance disorders that affected almost every area of their wellbeing. Fast forward to 2021, and it seems prevalent among older adults aged 65 and 75, who make up 20% of the older adult population. And this is largely due to hearing problems. However, several other health conditions can impact your balance regardless of how old you are. Below are six examples of these heath issues.
Naturally, the human body coordinates balance by interactions between the brain and the eyes. With the vestibular system’s help, you can coordinate sudden movements without falling or tripping over. This is quite normal among persons without vision problems. On the other hand, people with troubled vision often experience balance issues. Decreased visual clarity, and eye strain, among others, can severely impact a person’s orientation.
According to optometrists, the problem is caused by a lack of depth perception. This is when people cannot determine the distance between their feet and the ground. These are symptoms of vision problems that affect balance and proper orientation of the immediate surroundings. Some of these vision issues are genetic, while others may be due to lifestyle habits. For example, excessive screen time can expose the eyes to high amounts of blue light. To avoid increasing your risks of developing vision problems and associated balance problems, you may want to use options like blue light blocking reading glasses.
Chronic anxiety and stress
If you’re wondering if these two are health conditions, they are. According to Mental Health America, anxiety and stress fall under psychological conditions. They are also classified as mental health conditions and are persistent. So, what’s the connection between balance, anxiety, and stress? According to medical research, chronic anxiety and stress cause a significant change in brain chemical composition.
Subsequently, it affects the way the body responds to external stimuli. When this happens, the increased pressure on automatic balance reflexes decreases a person’s natural reaction time. This is what causes stress or anxiety-induced balance disorders. However, that’s not all. Research by the Cleveland Clinic also indicated that oxygen levels in the brain decrease among people living with chronic stress. It happens because anxiety and stress cause an individual to take shallow breaths, resulting in low oxygen intake and light-headedness, and dizziness.
Peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes
Out of 34 million people in the US living with diabetes, available health data indicates that almost half the number have peripheral neuropathy. Basically, this is the medical name to describe nerve damage. The injury is located outside the brain, and spinal cord, and physicians say this happens a lot more to those whose diabetes is poorly controlled.
When not treated early, this can spiral out of control and severely impact motor coordination. In the end, the individual has to live with chronic balance disorders. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy. However, if detected early, primary care specialists can slow the progression.
Hypotension or low blood pressure
In many cases, people experiencing low blood pressure experience little to no symptoms. Some people feel unsteady and nauseous, while others only realize a problem after regaining consciousness. Low blood pressure affects balance because of the sudden impact on cognition. The confusion that results from this health condition interferes with body coordination. This is why most people experience unsteadiness.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for low blood pressure or hypotension. However, if there is an underlying disease causing it, physicians can focus on that. By treating the root cause (if any), hypotension can be resolved. If not, people may have to make dietary and lifestyle changes to manage chronic low blood pressure. When that happens, learning how to cope with the associated balance issues may be beneficial if it crops up.
Inner ear problems
There are hair-like sensors in the inner ear that aid balance. These hairs are part of the vestibular system, which is primarily responsible for maintaining balance. Naturally, when you move your head or make body movements, the vestibular system notices. In turn, it ensures that your body remains balanced in whatever physical position you are in. However, persons with inner ear problems like Meniere’s Disease and Labyrinthitis experience severe cases of balance disorders.
The ear canal contains crystals encased in a jelly-like membrane. And when they are displaced, it can affect your balance. Displacement can occur from ear infections or blows to the head. Sometimes, even while sitting, affected persons may feel a moving sensation that can cause them to topple over. This makes it important to check your ears, especially if you regularly experience balance issues.
Surprisingly, several OTC and prescription medicines can cause balance issues as a side effect. Antidepressants and anti-seizure medicines are examples of medications that usually have these side effects—however, the narrative changes when it is a reaction to a drug. Medications like penicillin, anticonvulsants, chemo medicines, and sulfa-based drugs are typical examples.
Statistics indicate that 10% of the US population have penicillin allergies that manifest in many ways. One of which is the sudden onset of a balance disorder. Furthermore, people with full-defect G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency) will automatically react to Sulfa-based drugs because of allergy issues. A common symptom is balance issues, among several others. Admittedly, people may not know the medications they have allergies to unless there is exposure. This makes it more worrying because of the dangers of individual sensitivity to drugs, even in healthy doses.
A sudden loss of balance can be fatal, especially if a person injures the head. Due to this, it may be helpful to ask your physician questions about the possible allergies that may crop up. Some specialists may go the extra mile to provide prophylaxis to mitigate a possible allergic reaction.
Having a healthy balance is crucial to your overall well-being and quality of life. Therefore, it pays to be mindful of any sudden changes. Regular hospital checks may help you get ahead of such issues.