Older adults commonly experience balance problems. A lot of the time it’s caused by some type of inner ear issue, but there are many different things that could be behind that feeling of dizziness, lightheadedness, or just feeling like the room is spinning.
Balance for seniors is important because falls can often cause more problems that will land you in the hospital. Having good balance will help you walk better, stand up and sit down without falling, climb stairs, and much more.
Let’s look at some of the things that can cause balance problems, the symptoms you may experience, and some natural remedies for dizziness and balance.
What Causes Balance Problems
While you can have balance problems at any age, it’s more common for the issue to occur as you get older.
There are a lot of different systems in your body that have to work together to help you stay balanced. That includes your muscles, bones, joints, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and the balance organ in your inner ear.
With so many different areas working cohesively to keep you upright, there are a lot of different things that can go wrong, according to the National Institute on Aging. Often times it’s something like an inner ear infection. Your inner ear, which is called the vestibular system, gets infected or swollen. That causes vertigo (we’ll explain that a little further down the page).
Things like stroke and low blood pressure can also cause dizziness or balance problems. There’s also the possibility for a head injury or some medications to cause loss of balance.
Balance Issue Symptoms
There are many different symptoms you may experience if you’re having balance issues. Those symptoms might come and go. They include:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Falling or feeling like you may fall
- Being lightheaded or feeling faint
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or being disoriented
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms you should speak with your doctor about balance disorders. Sometimes they can be an indicator of more serious health issues like an ear infection, stroke, or multiple sclerosis.
Let’s look a little closer at some of these symptoms so you can get a better idea of what they may feel like or be caused by.
There are a lot of conditions that may be associated with vertigo, or the sense of motion or spinning. The most common type is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
BPPV is caused by the calcium crystals in your inner ear becoming dislodged. Those crystals are what control your balance. If you have BPPV you’ll notice balance problems like a spinning sensation when you turn in bed or look up.
The second most common, according to the Mayo Clinic, is vestibular neuritis. It’s an inflammatory disorder usually caused by a virus. You might have nausea and difficulty walking.
Vertigo also comes along with many other things like Meniere’s disease, migraine, Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a head injury, or motion sickness.
If being lightheaded or faint is behind your balance problems there are two likely causes.
The first is postural hypotension. This is when you standing or sitting up too quickly makes you feel dizzy. That dizziness comes from a large drop in your blood pressure.
The second possibility is cardiovascular disease. A heart arrhythmia, blocked blood vessels, thickened heart muscle, or a decrease in blood volume can make you feel lightheaded. This is another reason why maintaining your heart health is so important.
Loss of Balance
If you feel like you’re not very steady on your feet or lose your balance while walking it could be an issue with your vestibular system (again, the part of the inner ear that helps you stay balanced).
You could also be dealing with joint, muscle, or vision problems. If your muscles are weak or your joints aren’t stable, they can be the root of balance problems. Difficulty seeing can also make it hard to be steady on your feet.
Finally, there are also medications and some neurological conditions that can cause loss of balance.
This is another instance of inner ear problems, for the most part.
Psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety can also cause dizziness. Hyperventilating, which often comes along with anxiety disorders, is another possible underlying factor.
Last but not least, some medications can make you dizzy as a side effect.
Natural Remedies for Dizziness and Balance
There are several natural remedies for dizziness and balance problems.
There are some foods and supplements that can help with the symptoms. First, you need to think about how much water you’re drinking. Dehydration can cause dizziness. If you’re feeling tired and thirsty along with that dizzy feeling, try drinking more water.
Here are a few other things that can help:
- Ginger – may relieve symptoms of nausea or motion sickness
- Vitamin C – can help reduce vertigo symptoms for those with Meniere’s disease
- Vitamin E – can help prevent circulation problems
- Vitamin D – may help after a BPPV attack
Before trying any of these things make sure you consult your doctor. They could interfere with medications you’re already taking or other conditions you may have.
The Epley Maneuver
Another one of the home remedies you can try is called the Epley maneuver. It is supposed to help reduce dizziness by dislodging the crystals in your ear canals.
Use these directions from Johns Hopkins to complete the maneuver:
- Sit on a bed
- Turn your head 45 degrees to the right
- Quickly lie back. Your shoulders should be on a pillow so your head tilts further back. Lay this way for 30 seconds.
- Now, without raising your head, turn it 90 degrees to the left so you’re looking halfway to your left. Wait another 30 seconds.
- Sit up with your head still turned to the left.
Most people say the symptoms are gone after completing this maneuver, but in some cases, you may need to do it a few times.
Medication for Dizziness
If you have an underlying condition that’s causing balance problems, your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication to treat it.
Things like anti-anxiety or migraine medications are common preventive measures that can be taken. Depending on the condition, things like water pills and antihistamines are also potential solutions.
The bottom line is you should bring up your balance and dizziness issues at your next doctor appointment to get the best advice on what actions to take. If the issue is affecting your mobility or making you more likely to fall due to a loss of balance, you should make an appointment as soon as possible.