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Balance Disorders

A group of disorders that impair the functioning of the human balance system which depends on the inner ear, the eyes, and the muscles and joints to transmit reliable information about the body’s movement and orientation. When the inner ear or other elements of the balance system are damaged, the result may be vertigo, dizziness and imbalance which make the individual susceptible to falling. Other symptoms include vision problems (difficulty focusing, light sensitivity, poor depth perception), hearing loss, tinnitus (a sensation that is often referred to as "ringing in the ears", although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking), difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental and/or physical fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Not all symptoms are experienced by every person with a balance disorder and additional symptoms are possible. Conditions that can lead to balance problems include bacterial or viral infections, head injuries, stroke, orthopedic injuries, osteoarthritis, neurological problems and problems that affect the blood supply to the inner ear. A number of problems associated with aging can also interfere with balance. These include cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration, all of which affect an individual’s vision; peripheral neuropathy, which affects position sense in the feet and legs; and vestibular-system degeneration. Treatment may include surgery to correct an inner ear problem, medication and/or vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

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