Degeneration of the Nervous System
One of the biggest health concerns in senior citizens is falling. In fact, roughly 30% of seniors over the age of 65 who live at home will have a fall. These falls can be extremely dangerous and result in serious injury.
There are multiple reasons why senior citizens lose their balance and fall. Their muscles often become weaker, their bones brittle, and even some spinal issues may occur, but many of the falls are caused by imbalance. In seniors this is usually caused by degeneration in any of the nervous systems that determine orientation. Good sensory input is also required for balance. This input comes from vision and other various nervous systems. Seniors often experience imbalance because they are susceptible to disorders that affect these symptoms. These disorders include eye problems such as cataracts and retinopathy, and disorders of senses in the legs such as peripheral neuropathy and degeneration of the vestibular system.
Failing of the Vestibular System
The vestibular system is one of the sensory systems that begins to fail in old age. The system is a structure of chambers in the inner part of the ear that detect all movement and position that the head is in as well as detect gravity. The nerves in the vestibular system send signals to the brain to control balance and also control eye reflexes that allow you to see clearly while in motion. These nerves begin to deteriorate once a person reaches their mid fifties and becomes worse with age. These problems can cause a person to experience strong sensations of spinning, disorientation and can even lead to panic attacks.
Another common reason for imbalance in seniors is vertigo. Vertigo is essentially an inner ear disturbance. It causes the person to experience incorrect perceptions in motion, generally a spinning, dizzy or lightheaded feeling. These symptoms are said to be experienced by up to 70% of seniors over the age of 70. The symptoms of vertigo are commonly triggered by a change in position of the head; such as looking up or under something or rolling over or getting out of bed. In seniors the central cause is usually caused by degeneration in any of the nervous systems that determine orientation.
Imbalance problems in seniors can be complex and the cause is often hard to identify. It is important for them to have regular check-ups and physical exams. Also, speaking to their doctor about any changes in balance or symptoms they may be experiencing is recommended. Making proper health choices is also important and regular walking and exercise can also help prevent balance problems.