When talking to your doctor about problems with balance, many will describe the feeling as “dizziness”. However understanding how to describe your symptoms more accurately can really help your Doctor with their diagnosis and importantly, can prevent something being missed.
Vestibular Disorders Association has used the following definitions of terms. Dizziness is a sensation of light headedness, faintness or unsteadiness. Vertigo is the perception of rotational movement or whirling – either of the self or surrounding objects; whilst disequilibrium is the loss of equilibrium and can be experienced as feeling off-balance or a sensation of spatial disorientation.
Whilst some brief feelings of dizziness or disequilibrium are normal, symptoms that are intense and last a long time can affect your independence and quality of life and need to be assessed by a health professional such as a vestibular physiotherapist or your Doctor.
What can cause balance disorders? Natalie Pulsford, a Newcastle based Vestibular Physiotherapist from Pulsford Physio, states “Balance disorders can have various causes. They may be due to cardiovascular, neurologic or visual problems or can arise as a side effect of medications. Most commonly they are a symptom of a vestibular disorder (a problem with the balance organs of the inner ear). More than 50% of people over the age of 65years with dizziness have Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), a condition caused by movement of crystals within the inner ear that causes brief bursts of spinning vertigo with movements such as rolling in bed, sitting up quickly from lying or bending over. It is a common cause of falls. Fortunately it can usually be diagnosed and treated effectively by a vestibular physiotherapist or your Doctor.”
So, if you are suffering from unsteadiness, loss of balance or having unexplained falls, or you are experiencing feelings of the room spinning, or movement when you are still, blurred vision or feelings of disorientation – Natalie recommends you record how often you are experiencing these feelings and what seems to cause them to occur. If you have fallen, note down when this occurred, how often and in which conditions, along with any medications you might be taking. This information can really help with diagnosis.
Balance disorders need to be taken seriously as they can lead to other problems such as falls or reduced independence. If you are suffering from symptoms of dizziness and imbalance, record your symptoms as specifically as you can and consult with your Doctor.