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A balance disorder is a disturbance that causes an individual to feel unsteady, giddy, woozy, or have a sensation of movement, spinning, or floating. Three structures of the labyrinth, the semicircular canals, let us know when we are in a rotary (circular) motion. Movement of fluid in the semicircular canals signals the brain about the direction and speed of rotation of the head--for example, whether we are nodding our head up and down or looking from right to left. The balance system works with the visual and skeletal systems (the muscles and joints and their sensors) to maintain orientation or balance. This figure shows nerve activity associated with rotational-induced physiologic nystagmus and spontaneous nystagmus resulting from a lesion of one labyrinth. Some individuals may also experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, faintness, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, fear, anxiety, or panic.
Infections (viral or bacterial), head injury, disorders of blood circulation affecting the inner ear or brain, certain medications, and aging may change our balance system and result in a balance problem.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)--a brief, intense sensation of vertigo that occurs because of a specific positional change of the head.
Labyrinthitis--an infection or inflammation of the inner ear causing dizziness and loss of balance.
Diagnosis of a balance disorder is complicated because there are many kinds of balance disorders and because other medical conditions--including ear infections, blood pressure changes, and some vision problems--and some medications may contribute to a balance disorder. The primary physician may request the opinion of an otolaryngologist to help evaluate a balance problem. Some examples of diagnostic tests the otolaryngologist may request are a hearing examination, blood tests, an electronystagmogram (ENG--a test of the vestibular system), or imaging studies of the head and brain. Another treatment option includes balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation). You can take the following steps that may be helpful to your physician in determining a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Scientists are working to understand the various balance disorders and the complex interactions between the labyrinth, other balance-sensing organs, and the brain.
Recent findings from studies supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggest that the vestibular system plays an important role in modulating blood pressure. Other projects supported by NIDCD include studies of the genes essential to normal development and function in the vestibular system. The Institute supports research to develop new tests and refine current tests of balance and vestibular function. NIDCD, along with other Institutes at the National Institutes of Health, joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Neurolab, a research mission dedicated to the study of life sciences. Exposure to the weightlessness of space is known to temporarily disrupt balance on return to Earth and to gravity. Horizontal semicircular canal, and check out Horizontal semicircular canal on Wikipedia, Youtube, Google News, Google Books, and Twitter on Digplanet. For redirects with substantive page histories that did not result from page merges use {{R with history}} instead. An organ in our inner ear, the labyrinth, is an important part of our vestibular (balance) system.

For example, visual signals are sent to the brain about the body's position in relation to its surroundings. For example, an individual may experience the "room spinning" and may not be able to walk without staggering, or may not even be able to arise. Individuals who have illnesses, brain disorders, or injuries of the visual or skeletal systems, such as eye muscle imbalance and arthritis, may also experience balance difficulties. An individual may experience BPPV when rolling over to the left or right upon getting out of bed in the morning, or when looking up for an object on a high shelf. In this test, each ear is flushed with warm and then cool water, usually one ear at a time; the amount of nystagmus resulting is measured. One option includes treatment for a disease or disorder that may be contributing to the balance problem, such as ear infection, stroke, or multiple sclerosis. The exercises include movements of the head and body specifically developed for the patient. Scientists are studying eye movement to understand the changes that occur in aging, disease, and injury. The information from these studies has potential clinical relevance in understanding and managing orthostatic hypotension (lowered blood pressure related to a change in body posture).
Scientists are also studying inherited syndromes of the brain that affect balance and coordination. For example, scientists have developed computer-controlled systems to measure eye movement and body position by stimulating specific parts of the vestibular and nervous systems.
Neurolab focused on the most complex and least understood part of the human body, the nervous system (including the balance system).
A team of NIDCD and NASA investigators had previously studied the effects of microgravity exposure on balance control in astronauts who had returned from short-duration space flight missions, but these studies did not include an aged individual.
This redirect was kept in order to preserve this page's edit history after its content was merged into the target page's content. The labyrinth interacts with other systems in the body, such as the visual (eyes) and skeletal (bones and joints) systems, to maintain the body's position. Rotation of the head causes a flow of fluid, which in turn causes displacement of the top portion of the hair cells that are embedded in the jelly-like cupula. These signals are processed by the brain, and compared to information from the vestibular and the skeletal systems.
The symptoms may appear and disappear over short time periods or may last for a longer period of time.
A conflict of signals to the brain about the sensation of movement can cause motion sickness (for instance, when an individual tries to read while riding in a car). The cause of BPPV is not known, although it may be caused by an inner ear infection, head injury, or aging. He or she will usually obtain a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination to start to sort out possible causes of the balance disorder. Individual treatment will vary and will be based upon symptoms, medical history, general health, examination by a physician, and the results of medical tests. Scientists are collecting data about eye movement and posture to improve diagnosis and treatment of balance disorders.

Other studies of the otolithic organs, the detectors of linear movement, are exploring how these organs differentiate between downward (gravitational) motion from linear (forward-to-aft, side-to-side) motion. Other tests to determine disability, as well as new physical rehabilitation strategies, are under investigation in clinical and research settings. During the October 29-November 7, 1998, Space Shuttle Discovery mission, NIDCD and NASA collaborated in another study of postflight balance control. Please do not remove the tag that generates this text (unless the need to recreate content on this page has been demonstrated) nor delete this page.
These systems, along with the brain and the nervous system, can be the source of balance problems.
The semicircular canals and the visual and skeletal systems have specific functions that determine an individual's orientation. An example of interaction between the visual and vestibular systems is called the vestibular-ocular reflex.
Some symptoms of motion sickness are dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and generalized discomfort. The physician may require tests to assess the cause and extent of the disruption of balance.
Vestibular retraining programs are administered by professionals with knowledge and understanding of the vestibular system and its relationship with other systems in the body. Systemic streptomycin (given by injection) and topical gentamicin (given directly to the inner ear) are useful for their ability to affect the hair cells of the balance system. For the first time, a previously experienced, but now elderly astronaut, Senator John Glenn, participated.
The vestibule is the region of the inner ear where the semicircular canals converge, close to the cochlea (the hearing organ). These are called the otolithic organs and are responsible for detecting linear acceleration, or movement in a straight line.
The nystagmus (an involuntary rhythmic eye movement) that occurs when a person is spun around and then suddenly stops is an example of a vestibular-ocular reflex. Data collected during this mission, which are still being analyzed, may help to explain the mechanisms of recovery from balance disorders experienced on Earth as well as in the space environment.
The vestibular system works with the visual system to keep objects in focus when the head is moving. The hair cells of the otolithic organs are blanketed with a jelly-like layer studded with tiny calcium stones called otoconia. Scientists also hope that this data will help to develop strategies to prevent injury from falls, a common occurrence among people with balance disorders, particularly as they grow older. When the head is tilted or the body position is changed with respect to gravity, the displacement of the stones causes the hair cells to bend. The brain receives, interprets, and processes the information from these systems that control our balance.

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