Our body receives input from three different systems, each acting like a leg of a tripod to help keep us balanced. Without the proper input from one of these systems a person can feel like they're uncomfortable walking without worrying that they're going to fall, or maybe have fallen in the past. Some patients feel like they are not walking on stable ground like the concrete might feel soft.

The First System: Kinesthetic System

Some feedback we get from the kinesthetic system is from walking. When we're feeling the ground, our feet give us the signal that we're walking on something hard or soft. So that's one leg of this tripod that our body relies on, to be able to tell us where we are, which directions up and where are we in space and where things are in space.

The Second System: The Vestibular System

The other two systems are much more important and our body relies on them a lot more. One is the vestibular system, and that's in the inner ear. And it's a regulating system that tells us which direction is up. It lets us know where we are in space. And it's relied on for balance.

The Third System: The Visual System

The third prong of this tripod of balance is your visual system. When your eyes work together, they tell your body where things are in space and where you are by pointing at them and localizing how far away that object is. It's called stereopsis or depth perception. Our eyes kind of work as a team to coordinate to tell you this thing is 10 feet away, this thing I think is two feet away. (Unlike car mirrors, which always appear further than they actually are). The visual system relies on good vision in both eyes. But more than that, it relies on an agreement between the eyes, the eyes, working together in tandem, to tell you where things are in space. If you're having a vision issue, you can create huge problems with dizziness and balance, and usually those problems can be helped with either a special type of glasses (prisms), or vision therapy to help your eyes learn how to work as a team better.

Should I visit an eye doctor if I have balance or dizziness issues?

I always recommend that if anybody's having balance or dizziness issues, they should be checked out for an underlying vision issue. This is specifically tested by a developmental or behavioural optometrist that will look at things that go beyond the health of your eyes. This exam will look at how your eyes work together as a team, and how your eyes work in different positions of looking. Those things kind of allow us to look inside the component of vision that is through the brain, enabling the eye doctor to see how it is functioning. Through this deeper look at your vision our eye doctor can then address the cause of your balance or dizziness through a personalized treatment plan.

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