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How Do Chronic Conditions Affect the Balance System? - Part 2

By Eric Bostwick, AuD, CCC-A, FAAA; Amanda McVey, AuD, CCC-A | September 16, 2018 

In part one of this blog post, we discussed how the balance system works and how chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes can affect your balance system. In part two, we will discuss how kidney disease and thyroid disease can cause balance problems.  

Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a slow, progressive illness that causes irreversible loss of the kidney’s ability to filter out waste and excess fluids from your blood. Treatments include dialysis, a filtration process used to assist kidney function, and kidney transplant, usually coupled with diet and lifestyle modifications. Both dialysis and transplantation can result in vascular and immune malfunctions in the inner ear hearing and balance organs. In general, the longer dialysis is needed, the greater the risk of ear and balance problems.

Additionally, for transplant patients, immunosuppressant medicines are usually prescribed to lower the body’s ability to reject the transplanted organ. While successful for organ transplant, some of these medicines have also been shown to cause damage to the nervous system and balance sensors in the inner ear. Adjusting the dose can improve symptoms, but sometimes this is not possible due to concerns for transplant rejection. Other treatments that an ENT doctor may recommend to improve balance include medications to reduce tremors, and rehabilitation program for the inner ear sensors.

Thyroid Disorders

Autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) are a broad spectrum of disorders that affect the release of hormones into the bloodstream and manage how the body uses energy. Many types of AITDs are known to affect the hearing and balance centers of the inner ear and cause inflammation. Though the specific cause may depend on the type of AITD, it is believed that the fragile ear systems mistakenly become a target of the body’s own rogue immune system defenses. 

In order to better understand if an AITD is present, what type it is, and whether it is a contributing factor to balance and dizziness, comprehensive blood work and hearing and balance tests can be necessary. Management techniques for AITD vary based on the type, but can include drug therapy, surgery, and lifestyle modifications.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

It is important to remember that chronic dizziness and imbalance are not normal sensations. If you experience these issues, you should consider getting evaluated further by a balance specialist. Managing symptoms, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and keeping good communication with your doctors and healthcare providers can help prevent problems before they occur. 

If you experience dizziness or are someone who has one of the above chronic conditions, it is recommended that you consider seeking care from an ENT doctor and audiologist to help manage these symptoms and prevent further damage. The Temple Head & Neck Institute is always available to help. Call 844-570-1767 or submit a request online.