Balance of human body involves a complex process based on information from the sensory systems and coordinating the movements of different parts of your body. The complex system of balancing depends on three important components.
(I) Your sensory system: Your sensory systems which includes sense of touch, sense of vision, inner ear motion sensors etc. The feet give information about the place you are standing. Eyes also give information about the place you are standing.
(II) Your brain: Brain plays a very important role in receiving and processing this information and giving necessary commands to the different organs so that the body balance is maintained.
(III) Your joints and muscles: Your muscles and joints perform all the activities in your life keeping you in equilibrium based on the commands received from the brain.
Some people experience balance problems which include feeling unsteady, giddiness, floating etc when they are lying down or standing still. This can be due to balance problems. Ear infections, serious sprains, history of injuries etc can result in balance problelms. Diabetes or Parkinson’s disease etc are also known to cause balance disorder problems.
Caloric test is a popular diagnostic test conducted to get information about the balance function of the patient. This test is based on the fact that the eye movements of a person subjected to warm and cold water stimulations in the auditory canals are in different directions. If the patient is having balance problem, the ear which is affected by the problem will also be indentified in this test.
The testing is conducted by stimulating the auditory canals in the ear with warm and cold water or air and recording the consequent movements of the eyes.
This is a complicated test and requires patient’s co-operation. The patient is asked to lie on his back with his head resting on a special rest maintained at a particular angle. The patient is asked to fix his eyes on a particular point or bulb in the ceiling. Warm or cold air or water is introduced to the patient’s ear canal through the external ear. His eye movements (nystagmus) consequent to the flow of water are recorded either by using a special camera or by using electrodes connected to the temples of the patient.
The patient may experience vertigo which will stop within one or two minutes after the water flow stops. The patient may experience difficulties that resemble the beginning of a heart attack. So patients should be well taught about the consequences of this procedure before it starts.