Vision and eye problems, such as eye strain and poor eyesight, can cause people to experience dizziness and balance problems. Visual information is crucial for learning, movement, and maintaining good posture and balance. This article explores how vision problems can cause dizziness and issues with balance. It also looks at symptoms and other possible causes. Dizziness is common in older adults, affecting around 30% of people over the age of 65 and about 20—25% of working adults.
A person may feel dizzy when they have balance problems. Three systems work together to maintain a person’s balance:
- The visual system: The eyes and their movement provide information to the brain about the body’s alignment and position in space in relation to its environment.
- The proprioceptive system: This includes sensory information from muscles and joints that tell the brain about the body’s position and motion.
- The vestibular system: The inner ear tells the brain about the head’s position, motion, and orientation in space.
A person who feels dizziness with or without balancing problems could experience the following symptoms:
- spinning sensation or vertigo
- fear of falling
- feeling faint
- the sensation of floating or swimming
- blurred vision
- nausea and vomiting
- changes in heart rate
- changes in blood pressure
- eye, face, or neck pain
- double vision
- light sensitivity
- difficulties with depth perception
- drifting sideways while walking
- difficulties with coordination
Dizziness due to eye problems is usually because of binocular vision problems. Binocular vision is when the eyes work together to produce a single, unified view. When a person’s eyes are misaligned, the eye muscles strain to focus and provide the brain with unified and clear images. This may lead to eye strain, which causes dizziness, disorientation, and headaches. Conditions that may cause vision-related dizziness include:
- eye misalignment
- eye muscle weakness
- traumatic brain injury
- incorrect eyeglass prescriptions
- Impaired vision and balance
The strong connection between the eyes and the vestibular system means that eye problems negatively affect balance. Vision plays an important role in calibrating the vestibular system through the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). VOR stabilizes the gaze while the head and body are in motion. Damage to the VOR can cause problems in maintaining balance. A 2018 study also found that people with reduced vision are unlikely to be able to stand on one leg for at least a minute. The researchers used this exercise as a demonstration of poor balance. An earlier 2013 study found that the vestibular system’s impact on balance was worse for people with uncorrected refractory errors and visual impairment.
Conditions that may cause vision-related balance problems include:
- blurry or double vision
- traumatic brain injury
- binocular vision dysfunction
Dizziness can have many other possible causes, such as:
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
- Ménière’s disease
- excessive exercise
- thickening or narrowing of blood vessels
- transient ischemic attack
- sudden dropping of blood pressure from abruptly standing
- low blood sugar
- ear infection
- motion sickness
- panic attack
- generalized anxiety disorder
- taking certain medications, such as sedatives and antidepressants
While occasional dizziness is not a cause for concern, a person who repeatedly experiences dizziness and loss of balance should immediately seek help. If a person suspects that the dizziness is vision-related, they may consider contacting an eye doctor about a check-up. The treatment for vision-related dizziness and imbalance depends on the cause:
- Eye malalignment problem: An ophthalmologist can assess and recommend prescription prism glasses to correct the malalignment.
- Vision problems: This may require prescription glasses for visual acuity and refraction errors.
- Inner ear problems: A doctor may recommend medications, vestibular therapy, or surgery for issues with the inner ear.
Generally, doing the following can be helpful for people with recurrent dizziness:
- moving slowly when changing posture or position
- using a cane or other devices to help with stability
- holding onto handrails when using the stairs
- eating a healthy diet
- drinking plenty of water throughout the day
- speaking with a doctor about switching medications that could be causing the problem
- avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
- avoiding long, hot baths or showers
Below are several strategies that a person can try at home to prevent or reduce dizziness.
- Resting the eyes throughout the day
- We use our eyes for everything. However, some tasks cause more strain in the eyes than others. Take regular breaks from using screens or reading small texts, such as newspapers and magazines.
- Following the 20-20-20 rule
- Many people sit down in front of the screen for long periods. This can result in dizziness. The 20-20-20 rule involves looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes while using a screen.
- Doing the Epley maneuver
- The Epley maneuver is an exercise that involves following a series of steps. It takes about 15 minutes.
- A doctor may ask a person to do this three times a day until their symptoms resolve for 24 hours.
- Eating certain foods
- Ginger could treat nausea, dizziness, and motion sickness.
- Taking the Chinese herb ginkgo can manage blood flow to the brain and relieve balance issues and dizziness. A 2018 study found that the herb can minimize dizziness after people perform repositioning maneuvers.
- Taking vitamins and nutrients
- Doctors may recommend a person with anemia consume more iron. Good sources of iron include poultry, meat, and dark leafy greens.
- A 2020 study found a link between vitamin D deficiency and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Taking vitamin D could reduce dizziness from this condition.
- Drinking water
- Dehydration can make a person feel dizzy. Aside from dizziness, reduced urination and feeling tired are additional symptoms of dehydration. Be sure to drink enough water each day to prevent dehydration.
A 2015 study found that consuming 500 milliliters of water before eating meals may lessen postprandial hypotension in older adults. Postprandial hypotension is an excessive drop in blood pressure after eating a meal that can cause dizziness.
The outlook for people with dizziness and balance issues depends on the cause. Most causes are harmless and easily treatable, but in some cases, dizziness and problems with balance may indicate a more serious condition. Dizziness can be the result of various factors. A doctor may need to perform a thorough evaluation to understand and treat the cause of a person’s dizziness and imbalance.
Vision is a vital sense, playing an important role in posture and balance. Vision problems may cause vestibular and balance issues, such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches. A person who suspects that their dizziness may be due to an eye problem should contact an eye doctor for an evaluation.