It seems that we have recently had an influx of people with “vertigo” or balance issues. Many are unaware as to the cause of balance impairments. There are three components of balance control: vision, somatosensory and vestibular. They each give us meaningful information about our surroundings and where we are in space.
Vision is very important to help us navigate our environment. It is important to get your eyes checked regularly as fall risk increases when vision is impaired. Our somatosensory system tells us where our body parts are in space and whether or not we are walking on stable ground. Balance is affected by conditions where sensation may be impacted (in the feet) such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease.
If one system is impaired, you may have to rely heavily on the other system. Hence getting your vision checked is important is you have damage to the nerve receptors in your feet, as you may rely heavily on vision to keep you upright!
Lastly we have the vestibular systems which involve sensors in your inner ear that sent messages to the brain relaying how the head is moving in space. The brain then, in turn, relays messages to the eyes and the muscles to let them respond appropriately. There are a myriad of diseases that cause vestibular disorders – not all balance issues are vestibular disorders.
It is important to find the cause for balance issues as rehabilitation is possible. Physical therapy treatment for balance problems may consist of exercises for balance, maneuvers to relocate particles in the inner ear, exercises for gaze stability, habituation exercises and lots of education.