Many causes of balance problems exist. For example, medication side effects and heart problems can affect balance. So can nerve and brain problems, along with diabetes and arthritis.
However, balance problems are not a certain result of aging. Balance problems may be linked to the following.
Other Health Problems
- Dehydration (not enough fluids)
- Anxiety or panic
- Allergies or infections
- Pain, arthritis
- Inner ear problems (Ménière’s disease, labyrinthitis). These can cause dizziness and the sensation that the person or room is spinning, especially in the dark.
- Vision problems. Poor eyesight (like cataracts, which cloud the vision), and eye diseases like glaucoma
- Numbness. Numbness (peripheral neuropathy) in the legs and feet comes from nerve damage, which can result from diseases like diabetes.
- Brain and nervous system problems, like stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ataxia (not being able to control the body), and spinal cord problems.
- Joint and muscle problems. Most people experience at least some arthritis, joint pain, or muscle weakness with age. These conditions can reduce the ability to move and react quickly to changes in posture or position.
- Postural (orthostatic) hypotension. This means that a person’s blood pressure decreases when standing up quickly from a sitting or lying down. Causes include:
- inadequate oxygen to the brain (ischemic cerebral disease)
- pinching of an artery in the spine
- taking certain medications
Most older adults take many different medications each day. Some drugs may affect balance such as:
- anti-epileptic drugs
- sedatives and tranquilizers
- beta blockers (a type of heart medicine)
- blood pressure medications
- drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease
- some antidepressants
- nitroglycerin (a heart medicine), if taken with erectile dysfunction drugs containing sildenafil (Viagra or Cialis)
- narcotics/opioids (pain drugs)
- sleep medications
- alternative medications such as Ginkgo biloba, melatonin, St. John’s wort, and medical marijuana
Combining drugs or drinking alcohol along with any of these medications may make balance even worse.
Last Updated January 2023
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