Gentamicin induced balance disorders:
Three crucial components work together to keep us balanced when we are sitting, standing, or walking. Remove any one of the three and we lose our sense of balance. Gentamicin can destroy one of these components, the vestibular system – which is the most important, leaving only vision and proprioception.
Your sense of balance is controlled by:
The vestibular system is comprised of a small organ in the inner ear that has the ability to sense rotational movement of the head, linear acceleration of the body, and the force of gravity – along with the nerves that conduct that information to the brain.
Gentamicin can kill the “hair cells” of the inner ear that sense motion, sense gravity, and provide input to the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. Without these hair cells, the body has no internal “gyroscope” to keep the body in balance. If you have been the victim of gentamicin poisoning, your body’s vestibular system has been damaged and you must rely to a far greater degree on vision and proprioception (feeling the ground with the soles of your feet, or feeling a chair underneath you to know which is up and down), to keep you balanced upright.
Depending upon the degree of vestibular loss, a gentamicin induced balance disorder often requires a person to use a staff or cane to help them ambulate. A person with a gentamicin induced balance disorder usually doesn't walk in a straight line. Rough surfaces are harder to navigate than smooth surfaces. Any distraction such as wind, loud noise, crowds, or moving objects can make it even more difficult to ambulate.
Because balance is now much more dependent upon eyesight and proprioception, any small loss of these senses is amplified. Ambulation in dark or low light conditions is difficult, if not impossible. Because diabetes causes injury to nerves, it may affect both eyesight and sensation from the feet. Unfortunately, diabetes can greatly compound the impact of gentamicin poisoning, as can normal aging.
There is no cure for gentamicin-induced balance disorders, but treatment by a medical professional who specializes in vestibular rehabilitation or balance disorders can help you learn to compensate for the problem.
These websites address the impact of gentamicin or similar drugs on human balance:
These scientific papers address the impact of gentamicin or similar drugs on human balance:
These websites address human balance generally: