The term "lose balance" refers to feeling unsteady, dizzy or lightheaded. You may feel as if the room is spinning or as if you are falling when you lose balance. You do not have to be standing to feel as if you are losing your balance. People with balance disorders can feel off-balance even when they are sitting or lying down. Balance disorders range in severity and are caused by a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. Consult your doctor if you feel as if you lose your balance a lot for seemingly no reason.
Inner Ear Conditions
The inner ear structure called the labyrinth is part of the vestibular system and is the primary control center for balance. When the inner ear becomes infected, the labyrinth function becomes impaired and inflamed, which can make you lose your balance. This is called labyrinthitis. Other conditions affecting the inner ear include Meniere's disease. Symptoms of Meniere's disease include intermittent hearing loss, tinnitus -- a roaring or ringing in the ears -- and loss of balance. Inner ear conditions cause a type of imbalance called disequilibrium.
Loss of balance may not be a physical issue, but can be a side effect of medication. Blood pressure medicine and antibiotics can cause balance issues and dizziness in some people. Speak to your doctor about switching medications if this is the case.
Joint and Muscle Weakness
The vestibular system includes not only the inner ear but also your vision and motor skills. Your eyes constantly adjust with even the slightest motion from your body to keep your balance when you walk or otherwise move. Weakness in any of these areas -- vision, muscles or bones -- can throw off this carefully balanced system and make you feel unsteady on your feet. Older adults have an increased risk of injury due to balance disorders caused by muscle weakness and brittle bones.
Balance is compromised in some people when the nerves are damaged. Conditions such as Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy and cervical spondylosis are examples of nerve damage in which the outer covering that protects the nerves wears away. Tremors, numbness and other types of altered sensation in the limbs can lead to imbalance.
Mal de Debarquement Syndrome
The human body becomes accustomed to the ambient environment quickly. Mal de debarquement syndrome is a type of balance disorder that does not stem from a physical illness or underlying condition, but from circumstances. People with MdDs feel as if they are rocking or swaying, usually after they have been out at sea or on an amusement park ride that simulates those sensations. Loss of balance can occur when walking. MdDs usually resolves itself within a few days.