Equilibrium disorders in elderly: diagnostic classification and differential diagnosis


Background: Balance is primarily related to the proper functioning of three sensory input: vestibular, visual and proprioceptive. The integration of these different afferences contributes to the proper attitude of the body in static and dynamic conditions. Equilibrium disorders are common among elderly patients and are responsible for falls and fractures, leading sometimes to catastrophic outcomes, representing a serious health and social problem. Approximately one third of elderly patients at home and about 50% of institutionalized, over 75 year-old, suffer from this particular condition, with at least one fall a year and almost 50% of these with recurrent episodes. Females are more affected than males. Attempts to ascertain the underlying cause of unbalance should be done, leading then to specific treatment. Nevertheless, many elderly patients do not have a single disease but rather a multitude of medical conditions which may cause dizziness, imbalance and vertigo: effects of ageing, drugs, cardiovascular and neurological disorders, ocular and orthopaedic diseases.
Aim of the study: A literature review was carried out with the intention to offer practical and useful notions for the management and treatment of equilibrium disorders.
Discussion: In clinical practice, the main challenge is to distinguish between peripheral and central imbalance disorders. The data collected from history and clinical exams should be integrated with the intent to include the patient in one of the following clinical conditions: vertiginous syndrome, pre-syncope and/or syncope, neurological diseases, other conditions.
Conclusions: Following the differential diagnosis, treatment mainly consists in drug administration (antiemetic and vestibular suppressor drugs) and vestibular rehabilitation (physiotherapy and vestibular exercises).


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Dizziness, Vertigo, Disequilibrium, Imbalance, Elderly.
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How to Cite
Castiglione, A., Aimoni, C., & Scanelli, G. (2013). Equilibrium disorders in elderly: diagnostic classification and differential diagnosis. Italian Journal of Medicine, 4(1), 16-22. https://doi.org/10.4081/itjm.2010.16

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