Your doctor will start by reviewing your medical history and conducting a physical and neurological examination.
To determine if your symptoms are caused by problems in the balance function in your inner ear, your doctor is likely to recommend tests. They might include:
- Hearing tests. Difficulties with hearing are frequently associated with balance problems.
- Posturography test. Wearing a safety harness, you try to remain standing on a moving platform. A posturography test indicates which parts of your balance system you rely on most.
- Electronystagmography and videonystagmography. Both tests record your eye movements, which play a role in vestibular function and balance. Electronystagmography uses electrodes to record eye movements. Videonystagmography uses small cameras to record eye movements.
- Rotary chair test. Your eye movements are analyzed while you sit in a computer-controlled chair that moves slowly in a circle.
- Dix-Hallpike maneuver. Your doctor carefully turns your head in different positions while watching your eye movements to determine whether you have a false sense of motion or spinning.
- Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials test. Sensor pads attached to your neck and forehead and under your eyes measure tiny changes in muscle contractions in reaction to sounds.
- Imaging tests. MRI and CT scans can determine if underlying medical conditions might be causing your balance problems.
- Blood pressure and heart rate tests. Your blood pressure might be checked when sitting and then after standing for two to three minutes to determine if you have significant drops in blood pressure. Your heart rate might be checked when standing to help determine if a heart condition is causing your symptoms.
Treatment depends on the cause of your balance problems. Your treatment may include:
- Balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation). Therapists trained in balance problems design a customized program of balance retraining and exercises. Therapy can help you compensate for imbalance, adapt to less balance and maintain physical activity. To prevent falls, your therapist might recommend a balance aid, such as a cane, and ways to reduce your risk of falls in your home.
- Positioning procedures. If you have BPPV, a therapist might conduct a procedure (canalith repositioning) that clears particles out of your inner ear and deposits them into a different area of your ear. The procedure involves maneuvering the position of your head.
- Diet and lifestyle changes. If you have Meniere's disease or migraines, dietary changes are often suggested that can ease symptoms. You may need to limit salt intake and avoid other dietary triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and certain ingredients. If you experience postural hypotension, you might need to drink more fluids or wear compression stockings.
- Medications. If you have severe vertigo that lasts hours or days, you might be prescribed medications that can control dizziness and vomiting.
- Surgery. If you have Meniere's disease or acoustic neuroma, your treatment team may recommend surgery. Stereotactic radiosurgery might be an option for some people with acoustic neuroma. This procedure delivers radiation precisely to your tumor and doesn't require an incision.