About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
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Keeping Your Balance as You Age

Balance problems are among the most common complaints among older adults. Because of the increased risk of osteoporosis in women, maintaining good balance is a way to prevent falls, which can cause disabling fractures.

There are a variety of balance disorders, including benign paroxysmal position vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis, or Ménière’s disease. Some are more common among older adults, others can occur at any age.

Keeping Your Balance as You Age

BPPV is caused when calcium particles in the inner ear become displaced and hit the inner ear balance sensors causing dizziness. There may be no way to know exactly why these particles have become displaced, but common causes can include head injury, inner ear infection, or aging. BPPV causes a brief, intense feeling of vertigo when you change the position of your head. This may happen when you are rolling over in bed, getting out of bed or looking up or down to get objects out of your direct line of sight.

The part of the inner ear that is responsible for balance is called the labyrinth, which must interact with your eyes, bones and joints properly in order for you to keep your balance. Labyrinthitis is an ear disorder that includes swelling and irritation of the inner ear, which can impair your hearing and throw off the interaction of the inner ear with the rest of your body. Labyrinthitis can be caused by allergies, taking certain drugs, ear infections and upper respiratory infections.

Some symptoms of labyrinthitis can include loss of hearing, involuntary eye movements, dizziness, loss of balance, vomiting and nausea, and, sometimes, ringing in the ears. The condition usually goes away after a few weeks.

Ménière’s disease is caused by a build-up of fluid in the inner ear or labyrinth. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears; episodes of spinning vertigo; a roaring sound or ringing in the ears called tinnitus; and bouts of hearing loss that may come and go.

If you experience any symptoms of balance impairment, especially if you also have osteoporosis and are in danger of experiencing a disabling fracture, it is important to see your AOA physician. He or she can help determine the source of the condition, or they may refer you to a otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) to determine the exact nature of your condition and the proper treatment.

Learn more about the importance of keeping your balance as you age: