Balance Disorders


What is a Balance Disorder?

A balance disorder makes you feel like you’re moving when you’re not. If you’re standing, sitting or lying down, you might experience a spinning or floating sensation. If you’re walking, you might feel like you’re about to tip over. Everyday activities such as driving, walking up or down the stairs, using the bathroom or exercising become difficult – even dangerous because you’re at a higher risk of falling.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is a balance disorder described as an intense period of vertigo caused by a specific change in the position of your head (head injury or sign of aging).


Labyrinthitis is an infection or inflammation of the inner ear called the labyrinth. It is also sometimes called vestibular neuritis. Many times labyrinthitis is associated with an infection like the flu. Although this is not a common condition, symptoms of labyrinthitis include vertigo (a feeling of spinning) and hearing loss and generally only affect one ear.

Ménière’s Disease

Ménière’s disease is a relatively rare condition that causes incidents of vertigo, tinnitushearing loss and feeling like your ear is full. It may be caused by a change in the amount of fluid inside your ear.

Vestibular Neuronitis

Vestibular neuronitis is inflammation of the vestibular nerve caused by a virus.

Perilymph Fistula

This type of balance disorder creates the feeling of unsteadiness, dizziness and even nausea. Perilymph fistula occurs when your inner ear fluid leaks into your middle ear.

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS)

MdDS creates the sensation that you’re rocking or swaying like you’re on a cruise ship that continues after you’ve left the ship. This usually goes away after a few hours or days after being back on dry land.

The most common causes of balance disorders include:

  • Disturbances in your inner ear (viral or bacterial infections).
  • Damage to the central nervous system due to traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and more
  • Certain medications, medication interaction (polypharmacy)
  • Blood flow issues such as low blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia

Some symptoms are associated with inner ear problems, but others like light-headedness from standing too quickly, bending over, reaching for an upper cabinet, etc. can be related to a blood flow issue with your heart, or a condition in your neck or eyes. Symptoms may come and go or linger for a while, but either way, they impact your daily routine. 

If you have a balance disorder, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:


  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Falling or feeling like you’re about to fall
  • Lightheadedness or faintness
  • Blurry vision
  • Confused or disoriented


Less common signs of a balance disorder include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, change in your heart rate or blood pressure or anxiety.

Treating Balance Disorders

Treatment for your balance disorder will depend on the cause and severity of your symptoms. Your doctor will do a thorough exam and ask you about your health history before determining whether you need medical testing.

One option is to treat the underlying health condition that’s triggering your balance disorder. Another option is a series of exercises for balance disorders (vestibular rehabilitation). It includes specific movements of your head and body, designed to retrain your balance.

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