What Can Cause Feeling Off-balance When Walking?

Feeling off-balance when walking is not a medical condition in itself, but is a medical symptom that indicates presence of other medical condition. This is more common among older population, but can affect any age group. Other symptoms that accompany this sensation of feeling off balance when walking can give clue about the underlying medical condition.

What Can Cause Feeling Off-balance When Walking?

What Can Cause Feeling Off-balance When Walking?

The most common causes of feeling off balance while walking are discussed below:


Vertigo is a medical condition characterised by a sensation of the surrounding moving, when it is actually stationery. Besides feeling off balance when walking may be associated with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and difficulty standing etc. Vertigo is commonly caused due to displacement of balance sensors in the inner ear, which detect movement of head and the body. The most common causes of vertigo are mentioned below:

  • BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo): This condition is characterised by brief but severe episodes of vertigo following a change in position of the head which may be experienced due to sudden head movement while walking.
  • Inflammation or Infection in the Ears: Labyrinthitis is defined as the infection of the inner ear caused due to viral or bacterial infection. The symptoms associated with this condition lasts for days. It is associated with nausea and vomiting along with balance issues.
  • Meniere’s Disease as a Cause for Feeling Off-balance while Walking: This condition is associated with fluid build-up in the ear along with vertigo episodes and balance issues. There may be fullness in the ears, ringing in the ears along with hearing issues.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: Acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous growth present on the vestibular nerve (the nerve which connects the brain with the inner ear). Symptoms include feeling off balance while walking along with ringing in the affected ear and dizziness.

Feeling of Faint:

Feeling faint or loss of conscious (partial or complete) can lead to feeling off balance when walking. Dizziness is a feeling of being lightheaded which may lead to passing out. This is generally caused due to reduced blood flow to the brain, leading to poor oxygenation of the brain. The most common causes associated with this are listed below:

  • Drop in Blood Pressure: Drop in blood pressure causes diminished blood supply to the brain which can cause a person to feel off balance when walking. This may be secondary to anemia, excessive blood loss, iron deficiency and side effects of certain medications.
  • Inadequate Cardiac Output: Heart diseases such as disturbed heart rhythm, heart valve issues, weak heart muscle etc. can lead to reduced cardiac output, which causes poor blood supply to the brain.

Disequilibrium as a Cause for Feeling Off-balance When Walking:

The most common causes of disequilibrium are listed below:

  • Sensory Failures: This includes sensory issues such as vision issues or neurological issues in lower limbs, secondary to issues such as diabetes.
  • Muscle and Joint Issues: Secondary to medical condition such as osteoarthritis, i.e. wear and tear of the joints.
  • Neurological Issues: Certain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease cause issues in portion on the brain (cerebellum) which causes loss of balance.
  • Side Effects of Medications: Certain drugs such as sedatives, tranquilizers, and anti-seizure drugs can present with balance issues as its side effects.

Other causes of feeling off balance when walking includes:

  • Fall in iron level or anemia
  • Viral infection such as flu
  • Reduced blood sugar level
  • Ear infection (particularly of the inner ear)
  • Side effects of medications (especially anti-hypertensive drugs)
  • Dehydration caused by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea etc.
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Hyperventilation or deep/rapid breathing
  • Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, drug withdrawal symptoms, drug interaction, poisoning, intoxication etc.
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Excessive bleeding

The treatment for the condition is based on the cause. Feeling off-balance while walking can occur due to various reasons; hence, one must not take it lightly if the symptoms prolong and seek immediate help to rule out serious conditions.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 21, 2018

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