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More than one in 20 children have dizziness, balance problems, study finds

More than one in 20 children have dizziness, balance problems, study finds

2/2/2016

More than 1 in 20 (nearly 3.3 million) children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a dizziness or balance problem, according to an analysis of the first large-scale, nationally representative survey of these problems in U.S. children.

Researchers found that prevalence increases with age, and girls have a higher prevalence of dizziness and balance problems compared to boys.

The research was led by investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that girls have a higher prevalence of dizziness and balance problems compared to boys, 5.7 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively. In addition, non-Hispanic white children have an increased prevalence of dizziness and balance problems (6.1 percent) compared with Hispanic (4.6 percent) and non-Hispanic black (4.3 percent) children. The findings were published online January 27 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

"These findings suggest that dizziness and balance problems are fairly common among children, and parents and providers should be aware of the impact these problems can have on our children," said Dr. James F. Battey, director of the NIDCD and a pediatrician. "Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a health care provider to rule out a serious underlying condition."

The researchers analyzed data on nearly 11,000 children, ages 3 to 17, based on parents' responses to the survey. Parents were asked if in the past year, their children had been bothered by symptoms of dizziness or balance problems such as vertigo, poor balance/unsteadiness when standing up, clumsiness/poor coordination, frequent falls, fainting or light-headedness, or other dizziness and balance symptoms.

The researchers report that:

  • Among children with dizziness and balance problems, 46 percent of parents reported that the children had poor coordination; 35.1 percent reported light-headedness; 30.9 percent had poor balance; 29 percent had vertigo; 25 percent reported frequent falls; and 8.5 percent had other dizziness and balance problems.
  • Parents reported moderate or serious difficulties in 18.6 percent of children with dizziness and balance problems.
  • Overall, 36 percent of children with dizziness and balance problems were seen by a health professional and 29.9 percent received treatment. Of those whose parents reported moderate or serious difficulties with dizziness and balance problems, 71.6 percent were seen by a health professional, and 62.4 percent were treated.

The researchers also found that only one-third, or 32.8 percent, of parents with a child with a dizziness or balance problem reported having received a diagnosis of an underlying condition. The percentage of children diagnosed rose to 59.6 percent among children whose parents reported they had moderate to serious difficulties with dizziness and balance problems. Reported causes included neurological problems; ear infections; head or neck injuries or concussions; developmental motor coordination disorder; genetic causes; metabolic problems such as hypoglycemia; prescription medication or drugs; severe headaches or migraines; malformation of the ear; and vision problems.

Children with any reported difficulty hearing were two times more likely to have dizziness or balance problems compared with children who had normal hearing. Other risk factors associated with dizziness and balance problems included impairments that limit a child's ability to crawl, walk, run or play; frequent headaches or migraines; certain developmental delays; a history of seizures in the past 12 months; stuttering/stammering; and anemia during the last 12 months.

The analysis also revealed gender-specific risk factors. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit disorder, and stuttering were linked to dizziness and balance problems in boys, while anemia, hearing difficulties, and respiratory allergies were associated with the condition in girls.

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