5 Common types of balance disorders often observed in older adults

Balance disorders are more prevalent among older adults. Here are five common balance disorders that older adults should be aware of:

5 Common types of balance disorders often observed in older adults

Maintaining good balance is crucial for everyone, but it’s not always easy to sustain strength and stability throughout life. Older adults, in particular, often struggle with balance, especially on uneven or steep surfaces. This challenge can manifest as a disorder, posing a significant threat to their physical health. With age, the risk of injury increases, and the severity of potential issues becomes more pronounced. Therefore, to mitigate the risk of injury and associated problems, let’s delve into some common balance disorders today.

What causes balance disorders

We consulted Dr. Ishan Shrivastava, an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Ivory Hospital, Greater Noida, to shed light on the factors contributing to balance disorders among adults. According to him, balance disorders are prevalent among older adults due to age-related muscle deterioration and weakening. This issue tends to escalate significantly after the age of 60, sometimes accompanied by a decline in sensory neurons.

What causes balance disorders

Consequently, older adults become more susceptible to balance disorders, leading to difficulty in maintaining steady footing. Additionally, genetic factors can significantly exacerbate muscle weakness and these disorders, passing down through family history. Therefore, individuals with a familial history of such disorders or weakness should be particularly vigilant.

5 Typical Balance Disorders Among the Elderly

Concerns about balance have long been prevalent among the elderly, given the significant challenges they encounter. Nonetheless, a majority of adults experience several common disorders as they age. These disorders include:

1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV, commonly referred to as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, stands as one of the most prevalent balance disorders among older adults. Despite its widespread occurrence, it often flies under the radar due to its perceived mildness. Primarily affecting individuals over 60, BPPV manifests during head movements, such as altering sleep positions or rolling over in bed. This disorder can stem from inner ear disturbances, head trauma, ear infections, and other factors, heightening the risk of imbalance among older adults.

2. Meniere’s disease

Another prevalent cause of balance disorders in adults is the sensation of ear fullness. Many individuals experience balance issues due to blockage in the ear, often caused by wax buildup or ear infections. According to doctors, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified this ear condition as a significant contributor to balance disorders. Those suffering from Meniere’s disease commonly encounter symptoms such as vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and sporadic hearing loss, further escalating the risk of falls among adults. This condition can pose serious complications as bones and muscles weaken over time.

 Meniere’s disease

3. Labyrinthitis

Inner ear infections can exacerbate over time, leading to increased inflammation. This inflammation heightens the risk of balance issues, as ear problems are intricately connected to one’s sense of balance. Consequently, elderly individuals may find it challenging to walk steadily during such infections. Labyrinthitis, occurring within the inner ear, is often associated with flu cases, where it typically originates.

4. Chronic Conditions

Several chronic conditions can indeed heighten the likelihood of developing balance disorders. These conditions may include eye infections, nervous system disorders, and long-term medication usage for ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease. Eye infections, for instance, significantly increase the risk of falls and compromise balance, particularly among older individuals. Chronic conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and severe heart rhythm disorders can also contribute to balance issues. Prolonged medication use for these conditions may exacerbate balance disorders, especially if they impact heart health or interact with other medications over time.

 Chronic Conditions

5. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a condition affecting older adults, is associated with shingles, a viral skin infection. This disease primarily targets the facial nerves, posing more severe complications for older individuals. Consequently, it leads to balance issues due to diminished efficiency of sensory neurons and organs, elevating the risk of injury. Seeking medical assistance is crucial if one experiences symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome.