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Achieving Life Balance

5 Conditions That Can Cause Balance Problems

Because balance relies on so many systems in the body, a wide variety of ailments can make you wobble. Here are some of the most common culprits.

By Sheila Monaghan
Woman in ballet stretchHenry Leutwyler

Inner-Ear Conditions

The ear is home to a mazelike structure called the vestibular system, which works with your vision and the muscles throughout the body to keep you upright. That’s why an ear infection or a more serious problem, like a tumor in the ear, can upset this system and give you dizzy spells, says Anh Nguyen-Huynh, M.D., Ph.D., a balance-disorder specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland.

Low Blood Pressure

When this is acute, the brain becomes deprived of oxygen-rich blood, which can make you feel light-headed and, in turn, compromise your spatial awareness, says sports-medicine physician Jordan Metzl.

Cataracts

While any vision loss can affect balance, cataracts (a condition that involves a loss of depth perception in addition to blurriness) can particularly challenge stability, says Nguyen-Huynh.

Diabetes

A loss of sensation on the bottoms of the feet is a common symptom of this chronic disease. When you can’t sense the ground properly, it's easy to get thrown off-balance.

Migraines

These debilitating headaches can make you overly sensitive to motion, sound, light, and other visual information that your brain and body rely on to maintain balance.

For more information, see How to Improve Your Balance, plus find balance exercises.

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