An estimated 15% of Americans have a balance or dizziness problem, and the disorders that cause them are predominantly found in the elderly. Not only is the vertigo associated with these conditions a nuisance, but the falls that can happen as a result can cause serious injuries that can dramatically hinder your mobility.
For these reasons, it is crucial to be aware of these conditions. As a senior, awareness allows you to seek help from a doctor to reduce your risk of a fall. As a caregiver, it can help enable you to render effective and immediate aid. Here is a quick rundown on the most common balance problems in the elderly:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
When a senior experiences a significant feeling of vertigo when rising from their bed – or with any other short, quick movement of the head – they are usually suffering from BPPV. It is a complicated term for a rather simply explained disorder. In particular, the inner ear becomes encrusted with small calcium particles that displace some of its sensory components. The result is intense dizziness when doing something as simple as sitting, standing or searching for something on a high or low shelf.
Caused by both bacterial and viral infections, labyrinthitis is a general irritation and general inflammation of the inner ear. Both of these reactions to the infection cause the inner ear to move out of alignment – both within its own structure and in its configuration with the rest of the body – and thus become less effective at maintaining a good sense of body position and perceived balance. In fact, even if the senior is standing upright and maintaining good posture, they may feel as if they are about to fall over.
For seniors with spontaneous symptoms such as fluctuating hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in the ear, sporadic tinnitus and violent vertigo, the usual diagnosis is idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops or Meniere’s Disease. This vestibular disorder is caused by the accumulation of excess amounts of endolymph – the innermost liquid of the inner ear– collecting in the membranous labyrinth portion of the ear.
Balance problems in the elderly are significant not only in and of themselves but because of the further trouble that they can cause. A related fall can cause serious problems and severely limit your mobility. If you or someone you care for is experiencing any of these symptoms, or you are concerned that you may be affected by one of these conditions, please call your doctor.
Most people suffering from a loss of balance benefit from a walking cane or mobility aid. The Freedom Edition™ HurryCane® was designed to give you stability on demand by folding up to get out of your way when you don’t need it. If you or someone you love would benefit from a next generation walking cane, please click here.
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