What’s Causing Your Gait Disturbances: June 3, 2019

Whether it’s caused by a neurologic disorder, an orthopedic problem, or age—doctors say balance and gait disturbances are common as we get older.  “As we get older, you’re going to have difficulty walking anyway, and the idea is to discuss the types of gait disturbances that would cause people to fall and injure themselves, fracture their hips, or get blood clots, and that sort of thing,” said Dr. Jon Brillman, a neurologist with Lee Health.

As we age, the brain shrinks which often effects our thinking and walking.  “Once a patient discovers that there’s a disturbance with walking very small steps or has a tendency to fall over backward or just losing their balance, they should really seek medical attention and possibly go directly to a neurologist,” he said.

Gait problems can be caused by many factors including diseases of the spine and hips, neuropathy, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, vestibular problems, even vitamin deficiencies.  “We have to uncover the cause for the gait disturbance. So we generally do take an image of the brain. We usually get the blood work and measure vitamin levels and that sort of thing,” said Dr. Brillman.

Brain images can help to determine whether the problem is in the brain, the spinal cord, the brain stem, the peripheral nerves, or in the muscle. Addressing and treating any gait changes is important to prevent a serious injury.