As we age several of our systems become less efficient. This can cause problems for our balance but on the whole we learn to adapt and our lifestyles change accordingly. Not many people still ice skate at the age of 80. The balance required to do this and many other activities can prove too much, leading to imbalance and falls. Overall, most people don't find this to be a burden as they are quite happy to gradually reduce their balance demands as the years pass and so gradual reduction in balance function is acceptable.

This can all change however if one of the crucial elements of balance is compromised. A fit and active 70 year old can find life extremely difficult if they suddenly lose the use of a crucial element of their balance system.

Balance is co-ordinated in the brain and relies upon information from

  • The inner ears
  • The eyes
  • The pressure and stretch receptors in the feet, ankles, knees and hips
  • Cerebellum (part of the brain)

If any one of these systems fails it can take time to compensate. If two fail it becomes extremely difficult. Many things can cause failure.

Cataracts will affect vision, hip and knee replacements will affect information from the receptors in the legs, infections will affect the inner ears. In addition to these insults, as we age some of us will invariably need treatment for raised blood pressure, cholesterol, heart problems, diabetes and other diseases. Medications often have side effects which affect balance. Others may affect oxygen flow to the brain.

General imbalance or dizziness is therefore more prevalent in the elderly population, and when it is multifactorial as is often the case, teasing apart the various factors responsible, requires careful history taking together with a full neuro-otological examination.

Treatment is very much dependent upon customising treatment to the findings. Simple alteration of drug treatment may produce significant benefit in some, whilst in others vestibular rehabilitation exercises may help

If you would like to arrange a consultation with Mr Banerjee to look into this condition further please contact us. You can also find more information about balance disorders at the Balance Doctor website.

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