The Balance System
The Balance System is a complex system that is often taken for granted. Our sense of balance and equilibrium is dependent upon input from three main sources: our inner ear (vestibular), our vision, and the input from our feet (somatosensory). Our brain processes information from all three systems so that we can maintain our balance. With aging or disease, there can be significant changes in these systems. Diabetes can diminish sensation in the feet due to neuropathy. Cataracts and macular degeneration can decrease visual input. Involvement in one or more of the three systems can effect balance and put the person at a high risk to fall, often resulting in debilitating injuries. Prevention of a fall is a priority goal in the elderly population! Balance is also dependent upon good muscle strength and joint mobility. A sedentary lifestyle and lack of activity/exercise can lead to decreased strength in the leg muscles, as well as a general deconditoning.