Balance Awareness Week is Sept. 15–21, 2019, an observance designated by the Vestibular Disorders Association (VeDA) which aims to increase awareness about vestibular disorders and support patients in their journey back to balance.
The vestibular system includes the inner ear, which houses the organ of balance, and the brain. These organs work together to control/coordinate balance and eye movements. Damage to this system often results in balance difficulties and/or dizziness.
Dizziness and Balance Issues Are Hard to Diagnose
Audiologists, such as Danielle Dorner, Au.D., a vestibular disorders specialist with Associated Audiologists, play a key role in helping to diagnose and manage vestibular and balance disorders. Unfortunately, dizziness and balance problems can be extremely difficult to diagnose. The average dizzy patient sees seven healthcare professionals before receiving an accurate diagnosis.
Dr. Dorner’s background and experience make her uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat dizziness and balance disorders. She has advanced training in vestibular disorders. In addition, she is a doctoral-level audiologist. Utilizing sophisticated technology, she can diagnose vestibular disorders, and if necessary, can make a referral to a medical specialist. However, in most cases, Dr. Dorner can diagnose and treat the disorder.
Risks of Dizziness and Balance Disorders?
Aside from the fact that dizziness and balance disorders can be very disruptive for many patients, they also can put the individual at significant risk for falling. In fact, falls are the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2014 alone, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, causing seven million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs. Often, falls are caused by dizziness or balance disorders, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). With proper diagnosis and treatment from a specialist in vestibular disorders, these conditions can be successfully treated.
Steps to Prevent Falls
Older adults also can take simple steps to prevent a fall:
- Talk to your healthcare provider about falls and fall prevention. Tell your provider if you’ve had a recent fall. Although one out of four older Americans falls each year, less than half tell their doctor.
- Talk to your provider or pharmacist about medications that may make you more likely to fall. Some medications can interfere with your sense of balance.
- Have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist once a year. Keep your eyeglass prescription up to date.
- Participate in evidence-based programs that can improve your balance and strengthen your legs. Contact your local Council on Aging for information about programs available in your community.
- Make your home safer by getting rid of trip-and-fall hazards, such as throw rugs.
Warning Signs of Dizziness or Balance Problems
Are you living with dizziness or balance problems? Even small instances can mean it’s time for a checkup. Have you ever experienced any of the following on the list below?
- Vertigo or dizziness?
- A feeling of motion or spinning with quick head movement?
- A feeling of motion or spinning when changing positions?
- A sense of unsteadiness or a fear of falling?
- Difficulty maneuvering in the dark?
- Your feet not going where you want them to?
- Discomfort looking at moving objects?
- Frequent falls?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you may have a dizziness or balance disorder. The good news is that 90 percent of equilibrium disorders can be successfully treated once they have been accurately diagnosed.
For more information about dizziness and balance disorders, download our free e-book, What to Know about Dizziness and Balance.