For many people, the end of the year is filled with trips to the shopping mall to buy presents for the holidays. For those with balance disorders, the thought of shopping malls and the dizzy spells they bring can be scary.
Shopping malls provide a lot of visual stimuli: skylights, big window displays, people rushing around and multiple floors that make you look over balconies. For some people, these sights can be very challenging.
According to Dr. Joseph Furman at the University of Pittsburgh, the brain of someone with a balance disorder may incorrectly process all this visual information. They can become overwhelmed and feel unsteady, giddy and woozy, or have a sensation of movement, spinning or floating. The disorientation they feel can sometimes cause a panic attack.
Some people with balance disorders avoid going to crowded shopping malls altogether and instead shop online or by catalog. But in many cases, balance disorders can be successfully treated.
Several diseases and disorders can contribute to balance problems, and treating the underlying problem can improve or cure the balance disorder. Your doctor can also refer you to a specialist who can design a personalized program of balance retraining exercises involving head and body movements.
Scientists continue to work toward a better understanding of balance disorders and to test new treatments. One grant from NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, for example, was awarded to the University of Pittsburgh to create a virtual environment to teach people with balance disorders how to adapt to complex environments.
If you have a balance disorder, see your doctor about it. Bring a written list of symptoms, along with a list of all the medications you’re taking, to help the doctor make a diagnosis and recommend the right treatment.