Geoff was anxious as he had been having trouble with his balance for some weeks (probably several months, once he stopped to think about it). He felt unsteady on the stairs and was even sometimes wobbling when he was standing still, which he hadn’t experienced before.
While this was concerning to Geoff, he wasn’t sure that it warranted a doctor’s appointment. He thought the symptoms would probably pass in another week or two. In the meantime, he didn’t want to waste his doctor’s time.
We speak to many people like Geoff who are having issues with their balance. Often, when we ask if they have been to see their doctor, they haven’t. Or sometimes they ask us if their symptoms merit a trip to the doctors.
It sounds obvious to go and see your doctor if you are experiencing new symptoms, but in fact, people often don’t.
As we are not medical professionals, we can’t diagnose or give any medical advice. However, we have come up with a few suggestions which might help if you are in the same situation as Geoff.
These are some of the reasons why the people we talk to haven’t been to see their doctor yet:
“My doctor is always busy and might not think it’s important.”
Yes, your doctor is extremely busy. Hopefully, they won’t be dismissive of your concerns. Deteriorating balance can have serious consequences, including falls, broken bones and loss of confidence. So they will want to help you to address these issues.
“It’s normal to have trouble with balance as you get older, isn’t it?”
As we get older, it is harder to maintain our physical capabilities (strength, balance, flexibility etc.).
There is, however, a fine line between acknowledging the realities of the ageing process, and giving up because ‘it’s all going downhill anyway’.
Our philosophy at Vida Wellness is to accept that some decline is inevitable, but if we work hard enough (and at the right level, with the right support), we can maintain much more than we believe.
You should always discuss sudden changes in your balance, accelerated decline and new, marked symptoms with a medical professional.
“It only happens occasionally.”
If you only have trouble with your balance very occasionally, then you might want to consider the severity of the episodes before deciding whether to see your doctor.
You could have very occasional episodes which are quite severe and upsetting, which would certainly warrant a trip to the doctors.
Less severe symptoms, which happen often (especially if the frequency is increasing), should also be mentioned to your doctor.
If you aren’t sure, we suggest keeping notes of any occasions when you have trouble with your balance. Having a record will help you to understand the problem better and will assist your doctor in their investigations.
“It’s not a problem if I don’t go windsurfing.”
If your balance issues are affecting your regular activities, then they are worth investigating.
It doesn’t matter whether that regular activity is windsurfing (perhaps unlikely, but it does require excellent balance!), ballroom dancing or taking the bus to the shops.
If your balance issues are changing the way you live your life and preventing you from taking part in activities which are important to you, then they are worth addressing.
Your doctor should do their best to help you with problems which are affecting your ability to enjoy social or physical activities or to get out and about as much as you used to.
If you are avoiding certain places (e.g. busy shopping centres with lots of people, art galleries where you need to stand without support), methods of travel (perhaps the stairs at the station are a problem?) then this will affect your ability to live your life to the full.
Many people carry on doing these activities (because they have to, or they refuse to give up) but with increasing anxiety and stress, which affects their quality of life in another way.
Help your doctor to understand the impact this problem is having on your life so that they can make the best possible decisions about your care or treatment.
When should you see your doctor about your balance?
We recommend that you let your doctor know if you:
- Experience sensations of light-headedness, blurred vision and muscular weakness, or feeling like you might faint
- Faint (this could just be a straight-forward faint, which can happen occasionally and doesn’t mean anything. However, your doctor will likely want to err on the side of caution and make sure there’s nothing else going on)
- Have new or more pronounced sensations of dizziness
- Have recently started feeling unsteady when walking or going up and down stairs
- Find yourself avoiding activities because of fear of falling
- Have had more than one trip or fall where you ended up on the ground
Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list. If there is something you are considering discussing with your doctor, but it’s not on this list, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reporting. I believe strongly in trusting your instincts when it comes to these matters. If you think something needs looking into, you should let someone know.
After a trip or stumble
We see many people who have tripped or stumbled and ended up on the ground. If you have any bruising or pain following a fall, you should visit your doctor. You could have internal injuries, or that bruising could be a broken hip or shoulder.
Your doctor will be able to check you over and advise (hopefully it’s nothing and a few days rest will be all that’s needed). Depending on the circumstances of your fall, they may wish to investigate further (to avoid it happening again).
Maintaining your balance is crucial to staying active and connected. If you have any concerns about your balance, then visiting your doctor to discuss these is a wise move.
Have you been to see your doctor about your balance? Let me know in the comments below or send a message through the contact us page.