Balance problems in older adults

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Good balance can help us get around, perform daily activities, and stay independent despite aging. But unfortunately, aging and other chronic diseases can cause various balance issues in the elderly.

Balance problems in old age put us at increased risk for falls and physical traumas. Let’s discuss the signs of balance problems in older adults, their causes, and how to manage them.

Signs of balance problems in seniors

Balance disorders in old age usually present with the following signs.

  • Stumble or loss of balance while walking or standing up.
  • Sensations of falling
  • Faintness or light-headedness.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or feelings of anxiety.
  • Vertigo, dizziness, and spinning of room.

Sometimes, older adults may also complain about blurry vision and increased heart rate while struggling to keep balance.

Causes of balance issues in older adults

Many risk factors and diseases can cause balance-related problems in the elderly, such as the following.

  • Inner ear disease, including labyrinthitis (inflammation and infection of the inner ear), Meniere’s disease, and Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). In BPPV, vertigo occurs on moving the head quickly.
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, cardiac problems, and orthostatic hypotension (decrease in blood pressure on standing up).
  • Certain medications, such as antipsychotics, antihypertensive drugs, benzodiazepines, opioids, and antidepressants, are also associated with balance problems and increased fall risk in the elderly.
  • Excessive alcohol intake can also cause dizziness and balance problems in older adults.

An otolaryngologist usually runs blood tests, hearing examinations, posturography, and other tests to know the exact cause of balance problems. 

Ways to cope with balance problems

Below are some home remedies and techniques to prevent and treat balance problems in older adults.

  • Treat the underlying cause. If it occurs due to a medication, we can ask for an alternative medicine from our doctor.
  • Balance exercises can also help regulate the balance, although they cannot wholly reverse balance problems. Considering the significance of these exercises, Unified Caring Association (UCA) has shared a link to videos of simplified balance exercises.
  • Avoid alcohol and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain an active and healthy lifestyle by reducing sodium intake, keeping ourselves hydrated, and regulating blood pressure.
  • Install assistive devices such as motorized chairs, walkers, and canes to help us stand on our feet easier.

Furthermore, we should also take some measures to avoid falls if we have balance problems in old age. These measures may include minor safety changes in doorways/floor mats, porch steps, or rugs. We should also repair loose railings, cover sharp edges of household objects, use low-heeled shoes and inform our caregivers about balance problems.

Take Home

As we age, we may experience balance problems characterized by vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and vomiting. Usually, balance problems in the elderly occur due to inner ear issues, medical conditions, certain medications, and excessive alcohol intake. However, it is possible to decrease the risk of developing balance problems in old age by maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle and doing balance exercises regularly.

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