Vertigo and Balance Problems

Many health conditions can cause balance problems, such as feeling dizzy or feeling unsteady on your feet. We have doctors skilled in evaluating balance problems and coming up with a treatment plan that is unique to your needs.

What are balance problems?

There are many systems in your body that must work together to help you keep your balance such as your eyes, your muscles and joints, your blood vessels and your nerves. One of the most important body parts in keeping your balance is a special organ in your inner ear that makes up your vestibular system. Balance problems can cause you to feel:

  • Dizzy

  • Like you are going to fall over

  • Unsteady on your feet

  • Faint or lightheaded  

Diagnosing balance problems 

If you are having balance problems, your doctor will do a complete physical exam. He or she may also do a neurological exam, or an exam of how your brain is working. Some of the tests your doctor may order are:

  • Hearing tests

  • Vision tests

  • Balance tests

  • Special pictures of your brain called an MRI and a CT scan

  • Blood pressure tests

ENG testing

An electronystagmogram, or ENG test, may be done to find the problem causing you to lose your balance, feel dizzy or experience vertigo. ENG testing is done to find the location of the problem – the inner ear, the brain or the nerves connecting them. The test can be done at your doctor’s office or at a hospital. The test is painless and is done in a darkened room. First electrodes are attached to the face using a paste that easily is wiped off afterward.

You will be asked to follow a moving point of light with your eyes. You also will be asked to look straight ahead and side to side without turning your head. Your eye movements are measured and recorded. The test may take an hour or 90 minutes. The test will show how well your eyes, inner ears, brain and nerves help you keep your balance. Your provider may advise you not to take some medications for up to five days prior to the test to ensure the best results.

Vertigo treatment

How your balance problem is treated will depend on the cause. If it is caused by an infection, you may need to just give it time and continue to allow your body to rest and heal. Other treatments may include:

  • Physical therapy, including exercises to maintain your balance, strengthen your body, and prevent falls

  • Medicines

  • Lifestyle changes like watching the food you eat or using aids to help you keep your balance

  • Surgery

A Matter of Balance

Many older adults limit their activities due to fear of falling. This can result in physical weakness, making the risk of falling even greater. The MaineHealth "A Matter of Balance" program is designed to reduce fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. Small group training sessions are available in multiple locations.

Range of health conditions can cause problems

Many different health problems can lead to loss of balance and dizziness. That is why it is important to see your provider.

Here are some causes:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – This is a common condition when calcium crystals in your inner ear that keep you balanced move to another part of the ear.

  • Migraines

  • Infection like the influenza

  • Benign tumor in the ear

  • Head injury

  • Motion sickness

  • A quick drop in your blood pressure, often when standing up quickly

  • Heart disease

  • Weak or injured legs

  • Medications

  • Vision problems