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Posts Tagged ‘Gait ataxia’

Frequent Falling: 10 Medical Causes

Thursday, May 31st, 2012



All jokes aside- frequent falling is a serious problem, and not always connected to old age.  For example, vitamin B12 deficiency or one of several other conditions may be to blame for balance disorders. Here are some tips for preventing falls.


1) Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is a crucial nutrient for neurological health, and a shortage of vitamin B12 in the blood (vitamin B12 deficiency) can cause nerve cell damage and destruction, resulting in ailments like chronic pain, numbness, vision problems, tremors, and many others related to your nervous system.

One such disorder is gait ataxia, or unsteady gait.  Damage to the myelin sheath, which protects your nerve cells, can result in movement disorders, including difficulty controlling your leg muscles while walking, running, jumping, or standing on one leg.

Symptoms of gait ataxia include:

  • Frequent falling
  • Difficulty standing on one leg
  • Painful numbness and tingling in arms, legs, and mouth
  • Shaky or jerky movements in legs and arms, “clumsiness”
  • Seizures, trembling
  • Muscular feebleness in the legs and arms
  • Poor motor skills
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Blurred vision, double vision, or shaky eye movements

If Vitamin B12 Deficiency Mimics Multiple Sclerosis, How do you tell the Difference?

2) Obesity

Recently, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society released a report stating that elderly individuals who suffer from morbid obesity are more at risk for frequent falling than frail senior citizens.  While feeble muscles may account for a certain amount of falling in thinner seniors, difficulty maintaining balance accounts for significantly more falling among heavy elderly citizens.

3) Diabetes

Just as pernicious anemia, a cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, can cause nerve damage, diabetes can also create neuropathic symptoms that make it difficult to walk without falling.

Brain Fog from Pernicious Anemia- Telltale Signs

4) Antidepressants

Alzheimer’s disease patients who take antidepressants are at a significantly high risk of stumbling frequently, compared to dementia patients who don’t receive them, according to this report on frequent falling.

5) Mixing meds

Sometimes, combining certain medications can cause you to lose balance and trip more often than usual.  If you notice yourself falling frequently recently, then alert your pharmacist or doctor.

6) Middle ear disorders

The vestibular system of your inner ear and brain controls balance and spatial awareness.  Likewise, a vestibular disorder can cause processing problems resulting in dizziness, light-headedness, and frequent falling.

Examples of vestibular disorders are Meniere’s disease, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV, labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis.


7) Lumbar spinal stenosis

Sometimes, a slipped disc or arthritis can impair the motor nerves of your spine, causing muscular weakness in your legs, which can in turn make it difficult to walk.

8) Cervical myelopathy

Similar to lumbar spinal stenosis, cervical myelopathy can occur with a slipped disk or arthritis in the neck.  Symptoms include loss of balance and frequent falling, but may not include neck pain.

Painful Tingling in Hands and Feet- What’s Up with That?

9) Joint problems

It’s worth noting the obvious- instabilities of the joints in your hips, knees, or ankles, are common causes of falling.

10) Brain injury

Balance disorders sometimes indicate damage to the brain, whether from a concussion or illness.  Symptoms of brain injury may include dizziness, sudden headaches, and memory problems.


Please tell us…

Do you think you fall more frequently than is considered normal? If so, have you tested for vitamin B12 deficiency?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

Share with your friends!

If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, Facebook, or Google+.

Read more about B12 and your nerves

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Movement Disorders- How They Relate

Balance your B12, Balance your Nerves

Born with it: Clumsiness and Two Left Feet from Dyspraxia


B12 and Gait Ataxia

Obesity tied to older adults’ risk of falls: study

Antidepressants for dementia patients linked to frequent falling

Understanding Vestibular Disorders

Frequent Falls: what they mean and what to do


Brainsonic, Melissa O’Donohue, Keoni Cabral

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Movement Disorders- How They Relate

Monday, January 16th, 2012



What does Vitamin B12 deficiency have to do with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome?  Vitamin B12 protects your nervous system, and many of the symptoms of pernicious anemia from B12 deficiency result in poor muscle control, including muscular spasms, nervous eye twitching, decreased motor skills, and difficulty walking.


Vitamin B12 benefits the nerves

Cyanocobalamin or Vitamin B12 benefits your body in many ways- it lends itself in red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, healthy cognitive functioning, energy production, and homocysteine control.  Also, vitamin B12 helps your body produce myelin, a fatty substance that protects your nervous system’s sensitive nerve fibers in the brain and the spinal cord.

Without sufficient levels of vitamin B12, you may develop severe nerve damage- peripheral neuropathy.

Some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency- peripheral neuropathy include:

  • painful tingling and numbness in the hands, feet, and ankles
  • sore tongue
  • burning mouth syndrome
  • muscular weakness
  • muscle spasms
  • decreased motor control
  • frequent clumsiness and tripping
  • difficulty balancing on one foot
  • eye twitching


Vitamin B12 deficiency and other movement disorders

It should come as no surprise, then, that other movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease (PD) have close ties with vitamin B12 deficiency.  Involuntary muscular movements may or may not be caused by low B12 levels, but

  • In some movement disorder cases, scientists have noted improvement with vitamin B12 supplements.
  • Even when pernicious anemia is not a cause of muscle spasms or walking difficulties, researchers sometimes notice a comorbid relationship with vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Another occurrence in diagnosing movement disorders is a tendency for doctors to misdiagnose vitamin B12 deficiency as a more serious illness, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease

In a scientific report on Parkinson’s and neuropathy, researchers confirmed a high rate of vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with Parkinson’s disease, and recommended close monitoring of B12 levels and routine administration of vitamin B12 supplements. Results were published in Neurology.

Chorea- focal dystonia

Chorea is an abnormal involuntary movement disorder, part of a group of neurological disorders called dyskinesia.  Chorea is a symptom of Huntington’s disease, but it can also occur in other illnesses, including focal dystonia.  In one of many studies on vitamin B12 deficiency and focal dystonia, scientists saw favorable results with cyanocobalamin supplementation, attributing it to decreased homocysteine levels.

Restless leg syndrome

The most common symptom of restless leg syndrome is the urgent need to shake your leg to relieve “creeping, crawling” sensations, usually between the kneecap and ankle.Restless leg syndrome occurs often with peripheral neuropathy, a symptom of pernicious anemia.    Other possible causes are kidney disease, diabetes neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and drug interactions.

Stiff person syndrome

Stiff-person syndrome (SPS) is a rare neurological disorder that occurs with autoimmune disease. Symptoms of SPS are muscle spasms in the limbs and trunk, hypersensitivity to touch, noise, and stress, and stiff posture.  People who often suffer stiff person syndrome are patients of pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency), diabetes, thyroiditis, and vitiligo.

Gait ataxia

Ataxia is an inability to control muscular movements used in walking, jumping, balancing, or holding objects. Chronic ataxia is one of the earliest symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, along with muscular weakness, poor reflexes, spasticity, vision impairment, dementia, and psychosis, according to a Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center study of 153 patients suffering from cobalamin deficiency neuropathy.

Eye movement disorders

Nystagmus, uncontrollable movements of the eyeballs, might be caused by low vitamin B12 levels, according to a study focusing on downbeat nystagmus and vitamin B12 deficiency.  Another phenomenon common with B12 deficiency is myokymia- eyelid twitching.

Read more about B12 deficiency and your nervous system:

Balance your B12, Balance your Nerves

Myokymia is not a Hawaiian Island- Eyelid Twitching and Eye Spasms


The Movement Disorder Society- MDS

Eye movement disorders in vitamin B12 deficiency: two new cases and a review of the literature

Neuropathy in Parkinson disease

Reversible Chorea and Focal Dystonia in Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Restless leg syndrome

Neurologic aspects of cobalamin deficiency- PubMed NCBI

Stiff-Person Syndrome

Images, from top:

eye2eye, milos milosevic

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