A reduced balance involves a disturbance in the equilibrium of the person that leads to the feeling of unsteadiness during walking or standing. Aside from the feeling of falling, reduced balance may also occur along with wooziness or giddiness, floating, spinning and even a moving sensation.
Maintaining balance involves the interplay of various organs in the body such as the eyes, the ears and the proprioceptive ability of the person. In this line, any problems in these three areas may lead to a reduced balance.
There are various causes of reduced balance related to the disturbances in the visual system, vestibular system and the proprioception of individuals including:
• Inner ear disorders
Disorders in the inner ear such as Meniere’s disease are common causes for reduced balance. The inner ear contains the cochlea and the labyrinth, which plays a part in the maintenance of balance. When the inner ear is affected, the labyrinth fluid in the ears that dictates the positioning of the body in response to the environment may be disrupted leading to a feeling of unsteadiness, floating and even vertigo. Various ear disorders that may lead to reduced balance may include:
• Bilateral vestibulopathy or the loss of balance function in both ears
• Labyrinthitis or infection of the labyrinth in the inner ear.
• Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) or vertigo as a result of a change in the position of the head.
• Meniere’s disease or a fluid balance disorder in the inner ear
• Superior canal dehiscence syndrome or the presence of a gap in the transmission of nerve signals to the temporal lobe from the inner ear
• Perilymph fistula or the presence of leak of the fluid in the inner ear
Hypotension is another common cause of reduced balance. This is especially felt when a person suddenly changes position or stands up from a lying position. When an individual does not gradually stand-up, the tendency is to feel dizzy and unsteady. This event is caused by the pooling of blood in the dependent areas of the body leaving the brain to lack the adequate blood supply for oxygenation. As a result, there is a feeling of unsteadiness especially if the cerebellum, the equilibrium center of the body, is affected.
• Cerebrovascular accidents and brain tumors
The presence of a disruption in the blood flow in the brain as a result of stroke or brain tumor may also significantly affect the nerve impulse transmission from the inner ear to the cerebellum; thereby affecting the sense of balance.
Aging may also cause a reduced sense of balance because of the decline in the balance function of the person as the organs degenerates.
• Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is essential for the normal nerve impulse transmission from the brain to the peripheral areas and vice versa. A deficiency in vitamin B12 may impair the nerve transmission leading to a sense of unsteadiness.
• Brain infections
The presence of brain infections such as encephalitis, meningitis, syphilis and epidural abscess may also lead to reduced balance because of the affectation of the cerebellum and the nerve impulse transmission.
Feeling dizzy may be a common complaint and it may be considered a minor symptom. However, when you start to feel a loss or reduction in balance, you must seek immediate consult from a neurologist because it may be a sign of a more serious condition.