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Causes and Treatments for Loss of Balance

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Dec 18, 2022

Causes and Treatments for Loss of Balance

Do you often experience dizziness while sitting, standing, and even lying down? Lightheaded and the feeling as if the room is spinning are some of the most common symptoms of balance problems. For you to be aware of what causes loss of balance when walking, standing, and lying down, read on.

What is a balance disorder?

A balance disorder is a condition or disability that results in feeling dizzy and lightheaded. When you suffer from a balance disorder, you might feel that you’re going to tip over for a while and it gives you the feeling that you are floating or spinning when lying on your back.

what causes loss of balance when walking

A balance disorder is a common condition in older adults, which usually causes them to frequently fall over. This condition ensues when the balance organs in the body do not function well. A balance disorder can negatively affect someone’s normal life as the “dizzy spells” can happen any time, anywhere.

What are the symptoms of a balance disorder?

Aside from feeling unsteady and walking wobbly, here are other symptoms of a balance disorder:

  • A spinning sensation or vertigo
  • The feeling that you are about to fall or tip over
  • Faintness, lightheadedness, or a floating sensation
  • Blurred vision or vision and hearing sensitivity
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Difficulty walking in a dark room

Symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure and heart rate, fear, anxiety, and panic might also be experienced by someone who has a balance disorder.

These symptoms can last for a short time or can go on for longer periods.

What causes a balance disorder?

There are different factors on what causes loss of balance when walking, standing, or lying down. A balance disorder can be a result of certain medical conditions.

To make it easier for you, we divided the medical condition into four groups, namely, peripheral vestibular disorders, central vestibular disorders, systemic disorders, and vascular disorders.

Peripheral vestibular disorders

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is a result of the dislodgement and resettlement of the calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia)— which are responsible for controlling your balance, in the inner ear to the areas where they’re not supposed to be present.

Benign paroxysmal positional is one of the most common factors on what causes loss balance when walking or the spinning sensation (vertigo) you would feel when standing or lying down.

  • Meniere’s disease is a rare chronic, inner-ear disorder, which causes severe vertigo as well as ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and the feeling of fullness in the ear. As of today, the cause of Meniere’s disease remains unknown.
  • Vestibular neuritis occurs when the vestibulocochlear nerve, a nerve that transmits impulses to the brain associated with balance, becomes inflamed. When this happens, the nerve won’t be able to send the right information to the brain, causing you to feel disoriented. The symptoms of vestibular neuritis, such as nausea and difficulty in walking, are often acute and persistent.
  • Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness (PPPD) or chronic subjective dizziness makes a person feel a spinning motion in the head, which becomes worse when watching moving objects or when reading. Mental health conditions such as panic attacks, anxiety, stress, depression, and OCD can trigger PPPD.

Central vestibular disorders

  • Migraine causes severe and debilitating pain on the sides of the head, which commonly causes dizziness and motion sensitivity.
  • Acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma is a rare, benign tumor that develops on the nerves that are responsible for balance and hearing. A person might experience loss of balance and hearing problems when the tumor presses on the nerves.
  • Ramsay hunt syndrome (RHS) is a rare neurological disorder that is a known complication of shingles. Aside from experiencing paralysis of facial nerves and ear pain, a person with RHS might also suffer from vertigo and hearing loss.
  • Head injury or trauma is one of the usual factors on what causes loss of balance when walking or basically vertigo is a head injury or concussion.
  • Motion sickness or Kinetosis is a common condition people experience when traveling by boat, plane, car, and other vehicles. Motion sickness causes dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea.

Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and cervical spondylosis can result in a balance disorder since nerve damage in the brain negatively affects balance.

Systemic disorders

  • Hemodynamic orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension) is a type of low blood pressure that occurs when a person suddenly sits or stands up, causing lightheadedness, and on some occasions, fainting.
  • Peripheral neuropathy causes loss of balance since it affects a person’s motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves.
  • Abnormally rapid breathing (hyperventilation) is may lead to loss of balance since breathing heavily and rapidly can make a person lightheaded due to decreased oxygen circulation.
  • Psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other psychiatric disorders may result in vertigo or loss of balance in general.

Vascular disorders

  • Cardiovascular disorders like heart arrhythmia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can lead to lightheadedness and loss of balance due to blood flow abnormalities.
  • Certain medications and treatments list vertigo and lightheadedness as their side effects, which results in a balance disorder.

How to treat a balance disorder

After being familiar with what causes loss of balance when walking, let us now go through the treatments you can do to treat your balance disorder.

Keep in mind that different causes require different treatments. Make sure to get a word with your doctor before trying the treatments below.

Treatments for balance disorder include:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation is a specialized exercise or therapy program to improve as well as reduce problems associated with balance and dizziness. This therapy is under the supervision of a trained vestibular physical therapist.
  • Epley maneuver is a series of head and chest exercises that aim to reposition the semicircular canals, which are fluid-filled tubes responsible for keeping your balance. Doing these exercises will help improve and reduce the symptoms of Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
  • Lifestyle changes such as limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and choosing a healthier diet can help alleviate the symptoms that come with a balance disorder.
  • Surgeries for Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma have been causing can help with your balance problems. A non-surgical surgery called Stereotactic radiosurgery can help treat an acoustic neuroma by damaging the DNA in the tumor that prevents it from multiplying.
  • Medications are the most used treatment when it comes to vertigo. Your doctor might prescribe drugs that can reduce the frequency and relieve dizziness and nausea. Keep in mind not to self medicate and always ask your doctor for advice.

Key takeaways

A balance disorder negatively affects a person’s life since the symptoms it comes with can appear anytime and anywhere. Being aware of what’s been causing this disorder is a big help, for you to know the treatments that can improve your condition.

If you are currently experiencing a balance disorder, it is best if you are accompanied by someone all the time so you can avoid accidents.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Dec 18, 2022

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