Are there similar conditions? What are some other balance disorders?

What is a balance disorder?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) defines a balance disorder as a condition that makes you feel unsteady or dizzy. If you are standing, sitting, or lying down, you might feel as if you are moving, spinning, or floating. If you are walking, you might suddenly feel as if you are tipping over. The NIDCD adds that there are more than a dozen different balance disorders. Here are just a few common balance disorders.

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or positional vertigo: A brief, intense episode of vertigo triggered by a specific change in the position of the head. You might feel as if you’re spinning when you bend down to look under something, tilt your head to look up or over your shoulder, or roll over in bed. BPPV occurs when loose otoconia tumble into one of the semicircular canals and affect how the cupula works. This keeps the cupula from flexing properly, sending incorrect information about your head’s position to your brain, and causing vertigo. Read More.
  • Labyrinthitis: An infection or inflammation of the inner ear that causes dizziness and loss of balance. It is often associated with an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu. Read More.
  • Ménière’s disease: Episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ear), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. It may be associated with a change in fluid volume within parts of the labyrinth, but the cause or causes are still unknown. Read More.
  • Vestibular neuronitis: An inflammation of the vestibular nerve that can be caused by a virus, and primarily causes vertigo. Read More.
  • Perilymph fistula: A leakage of inner ear fluid into the middle ear. It causes unsteadiness that usually increases with activity, along with dizziness and nausea. Perilymph fistula can occur after a head injury, dramatic changes in air pressure (such as when scuba diving), physical exertion, ear surgery, or chronic ear infections. Some people are born with perilymph fistula. Read More.
  • Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness (PPPD): see diagnostic criteria established by the Bárany Society and International Headache Society. The document is available through the Journal of Vestibular Research.
  • Vestibular Migraine: see diagnostic criteria established by the Bárany Society and International Headache Society. The document is available through the Journal of Vestibular Research.

Other balance disorders may have symptoms in common with MdDS but, of note, symptoms of these conditions do not abate when the patient is in motion. A key diagnostic indicator of MdDS is that symptoms often temporarily remit when the patient is back in motion. When discussing your symptoms with your doctor, it is best to not use the words “dizzy” or “vertigo.” Instead, explain that you feel as if you are on a boat, walking on a trampoline or mattress, elevator drop, or other descriptive language.

Diagnostic Criteria for MdDS established by the Committee for the Classification of Vestibular Disorders of the Bárány Society can be found here:

What is vertigo?

Vertigo may be defined as a disorder of the sense of any direction, a disturbed spatial perception of the body, but vertigo usually means dizziness with spinning, a rotational sensation. And a frequent outcome when using the words “dizzy,” “dizziness” or “vertigo” when speaking with your doctor is a misdiagnosis with one of the above common balance disorders. A standard definition is being established by the Bárany Society of Neuro-Otology.