Dear Dr. Roach: Apparently, it is common for older people to have balance issues. Do these balance problems usually stem more from muscular issues or inner ear issues? E.M.
Answer: It is often a combination of issues that lead to balance problems in older adults. Inner ear problems, where the organs of balance are located, are a major cause. However, balance problems are exacerbated by muscle weakness, vision problems, arthritis and medications, to name a few common ones.
The body has many safeguards to keep us from falling. If the balance system cant tell us our exact position in space, our eyes can, and the neurological system uses fine muscle control to keep us upright and safe. We can often do well even with one system not working properly. When multiple systems are affected, falls are more common.
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