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 Marcia Purse

Do You Have Trouble With Balance? Rapid Decisions?

By January 14, 2013

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BIG BruiseI've been forbidden to change overhead light bulbs because my balance is too poor. Recently I had one bulb after another burn out in my kitchen and living room. Five bulbs out of seven were dark by the time I got someone to come over and change them.

I've had several falls, the last one just a few days ago when I made the unbelievable decision to skip a step going down the stairs with my laundry basket. Then my foot went out too far and I skipped TWO steps. Now my left knee is black and blue and red. I yelped last night when I automatically put it down first getting into my waterbed, and I have to wear soft pants because the harsher feel of denim rubbing the skin is too painful.

Some weeks back I nearly caused an accident because I decided yes, the woman coming toward me WAS going to stop as the light was changing to red, and started to make my left turn in front of her. Well, no, she wasn't going to stop.

Of course, I can't say for sure that these problems are caused by my psych meds. I'm curious, therefore, as to whether a lot of you have the same problems. Tell me in the comments.

Image: jmawork / Flickr

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January 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm
(1) Jane says:

Ouch! That is one nasty bruise! I also have problems with keeping my balance but so far I haven’t had any “bad” accidents.

January 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(2) Debbie Blissmer says:

I have many balance problems. I fall a lot, at one point or another have broke both my ankles and many many bad sprains. I know longer am allowed to go down the stairs to the basement at my son’s house. I’ve had balance issues for many years, since I was put on Lamictal. It’s a side affect I’ve accepted because of all the good the drug does me. But I’m noticing the older I get (I’m 60 now) that these issues are worsening. Even though I walk with a cane, my son doesn’t want me outside when there is ice on the sidewalk or parking lot. I end up depending a lot on he and his wife and kids to do things for me. I hate it, but stay med compliant.

January 15, 2013 at 12:57 am
(3) Christi says:

I have been having serious balance issues myself. For awhile it was attributed to my weening off of Effexor, but the balance issues has not resolved itself while all the other side effects have. I’m glad I’m not the only one that experiences this.

January 15, 2013 at 3:31 am
(4) lelap says:

I had shoulder replacement surgery in February 2012. It was a complete success. Unfortunately, I had several falls shortly after (probably pain medication related) and ruptured a tendon in the newly replaced part. There is nothing to be done to fix the rupture at this time. I now have only limited us of my left arm.
So sad. It’s been very difficult coming to terms with the loss of use of my arm.

January 15, 2013 at 11:27 am
(5) Dianne Simpson says:

I just found out from my Dr last week that the clumsiness and unbalanced actions I have no control over could be a side effect of Cymbalta, not vertigo like I thought it was.

January 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm
(6) melissa says:

i take lithium and other meds for my bi-polar and i always assumed my balance problems was because of an inner ear problem sometimes when i get up after taking my meds i almost fall over and sometimes fall into things

January 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm
(7) Carol Sue says:

Yes, I too have balance problems. I’m taking Lamictal and Cymbalt. I always say that I walked like a drunken sailor. I hate it. I am constantly guarded by my family members to “not do that!!”. Which is a nice thought, unless I’m alone. But I do try to be careful and thankfully hadn’t had a bad fall. Knock on wood. But I know the potential is there. Thanks for the post so I know that it is really the meds and really a problem. I’ll be more careful. I can age pretty stubborn about my disabilities.

January 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm
(8) Jo says:

There are tests that can tell you if you have an actual problem with your vestibular/balance system or if it’s your meds that are effecting your central nervous system… You should consult an Ear, Nose and Throat physician who specializes in these types of problems. If you are at risk for falls there are treatments that don ‘t involve medication that can help such as Vestibular rehabilitation. I’m an audiologist and perform the tests for balance disorders and can treat them as well.

January 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm
(9) Casey says:

YES!! My depth perception, coordination, and fine motor skills have all suffered. I’ve also developed tremors which can be severe some days.

My Dr. said these are indeed side effects of the Lamictal I take. It has made parking my car without scraping the curb impossible. (My poor hubcaps!) I often misjudge corners, furniture, and will just feel as if I’m tipping over at times.

I actually went and had testing done because I felt so unstable all the time. I thought maybe I had vertigo or some other problem. (Yes, I considered brain tumor!)

It’s incredibly frustrating to feel like such a dolt. My Dr. and I have found that a low dose of a beta blocker takes care of the tremors, but I don’t have any advice for the rest.

January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm
(10) Jason N. says:

I have had balance problems my entire life. It has been the worst when I have been nervous or in uncomfortable situations or after periods of little sleep. This problem tends to go away during manic phases. I have only been taking medications for the past couple of years and the balance problem existed prior to any medications.

January 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm
(11) hillary c says:

I take Lamictal and have had balance problems. My friends said I “walked like a zombie” as though I was about to fall. I do fall against things occasionally, but nothing serious yet. I was also taking Xanax for a while but my doc said that wouldn’t be causing balance problems. I”m not so sure. Seems things got better when I went off of it.

January 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm
(12) Becky says:

ok…so I thought was the only one. I’m the only driver in the house. Spouse worries last week or so as having issues judging distance and if others will stop when legally they should. Your comment of the turning left on a red is something I deal with often. There is also the 4way stop. I can never keep track of whose turn. Lately a person behind me honks or somebody motions. My spouse will track turns if in car.
The stairs at my place are much smaller then my size 10 shoes. I’ve noticed since I slipped in dec that I go down them sideways. I do this everywhere a stair. That depth perception is gone.
Sorry to hear of your injuries. Hoping they heal soon and that it doesn’t effect the future stair use.

January 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm
(13) Victor DeCarlo says:

I’ve had the same symptoms of not being able to climb a step or two up a ladder no matter how secure the surroundings are to grab onto to prevent a fall. After accepting this for years, I had to see a Podiatrist according to my new Primary MD. They gave me a tube of UREA 20% Cream by Stratus to apply to any calluses/bunions I may have on the bottom of my feet twice daily. Sure enough, it turns out parts on the bottom of my feet were numb because of the calluses/bunions. It is helping tremendously. I also brought a pair of light weight sneakers and keep the laces as loose as possible without stepping on them. I’m by no means a tight rope walker but am slowly improving after a month or two+ of applying the cream.

January 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm
(14) Kathy Brannon says:

Oooh, that looks painful. I have balance problems too, but as the previous commenter said, it’s hard to tell how much is the meds and how much is getting older — and worsening arthritis. One thing I wanted to pass along was that someone in a support group I went found out for the first time that she had a balance problem during a neuro exam — and it turned out she had an inner ear problem. She was younger, but it’s something to consider.

January 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm
(15) Tara says:

Yes, I do have problems with my balance,I have always been uncoordinated, but much more so now. I was diagnosed with BPD II about ten years ago. Once I tripped over my own feet and broke my shoulder. I take Lamictal, Prozac and Wellbutrin and Provigel.

January 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm
(16) Ann Ketter says:

I too have had balance problems while on lamictol. I take steps one at a time, which makes me feel like a very old woman. On a similar topic, when seroquel was added to the regular ambien, I started occasionally sleepwalking. Yup, I fell when apparently I was going to the bathroom and lost my balance. One broken hip later, I really feel like an old woman cruising around with my walker. Seroquel has made a big difference in narrowing the extent of the swings, so I gave up ambien. I’m paying the price now with sleepless nights.

January 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm
(17) Tara says:

I wanted to add to my comments just sent. Beside being very uncoordinated, I had to quit my teaching job last year because of the anxiety related to trying to remember everyone’s name in my class and peers. Bad instant recall. Very stressful when working with young children. It is very embarrasing. I don’t tell many people I have BPD. I sense a stigma. I say I have anxiety disorder if I can’t remember something. I am 46 and was diagnosed at about 36. I was a successful teacher for years but some staff changes were very stressful for me. I am very bad with passive-aggressive types.
I stay home now and am writing and illustrating children’s books. I am not making a lot of money yet. (Maybe some day) It is a very competitive business. But I feel that I am contributing to my field. I wish my husband understood why I can’t work. He is a major cause of stress that I experience now. He doesn’t understand or may even believe I have BP and it could effect my work.

January 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm
(18) Dawn says:

I also take Lamictal, and besides the increasing loss of memory, I believe that it has caused some of my falls. Like others, I have my problems with climbing stairs properly. Instead of taking one step at a time, I end up taking two which causes me to lose my balance.

Ann, you mentioned something about sleepwalking. I take Seroquel, and I have frequent bouts of what I call “sleep eating”. If I don’t get to bed quickly enough after taking my Seroquel, (especially if I grab something to eat after I take my Seroquel), I end up in the strangest (and some of the dangerous) places. I’ve fallen off of chairs, fallen in the kitchen so many times over the 10 years that I am embarrassed to admit it. I also find myself thinking that I have gone to bed, only to find myself asleep sitting straight up on the floor.

I was once told that eating makes Seroquel kick in quickly, and I know that for a fact. I’ve been trying to educate anyone that takes Seroquel.

January 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm
(19) derek says:

Yes, I have exactly the same problems, but I’m not sure if it’s because of to my bipolar meds, my diabetes megs, or just old age (76).

Either way, it’s not funny and I have suffered many accidents, just like you.

I’ve asked my doctor about it many times, bur he does not seem to have an exlplanation and just pulls a funny face.

C’est la vie!!

Keep your fingers crossed and good liuck


January 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm
(20) Rowdy says:

I do have problems with balance. I thought for awhile that I was just clumsy. But it happens when I’m just walking sometimes. And I get off balance very easily when stepping over anything, or reaching up. We cut wood for our woodstove and I have fallen several times stepping over logs or leaning over to pick up wood. I’m sure it’s my meds because I didn’t have this problem in pre-med days.

January 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm
(21) Heather says:

I have balance problems as well. Part of which is bad eyes that do not work together, but my doctor thinks that another contributor may be my meds as well. I’ve ridden my bike into a tree, walked into the side of a parked school bus (not joking), missed multiple steps going up or down them, I’m constantly walking into the corners of things as well. I play it off like a big joke but really its a hinderence because I’m always bruising, twisting, spraining or breaking something. Oh well, at least I can think clearly and be around people without losing it! :)

January 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm
(22) Kimberly says:

I too have bad balance problems…thought it was just me so glad to know I am not alone. I have recently fractured my left foot and severely sprained both ankles…having alot pain and discomfort though fall occured in August. Thanks for sharing your stories.

January 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm
(23) David says:

Did any of you people having balance problems hear the words Parkinson’s Disease?

January 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm
(24) Casey says:

Parkinson’s is a possibility, but not a probability. There is a documented link between medications for BP and the types of balance/motor skill issues discussed.

Tara – I had similar issues with memory and recall. There are studies that have shown, and I can attest to the helpfulness of medications normally used for ADD as a way to cope. This sounds odd, but it works. I was unable to find words when speaking or writing. It felt like I had lost about 50 IQ points! Talk with your doctor about this. It may be helpful for you. It was a godsend for me.

January 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm
(25) rowdy1 says:

I have major balance problems. I don’t let them slow me down very much. I like to work in the yard and other outside summer things. I’ve fallen off ladders, and that list goes on and on. Thus far i haven’t hurt myself, though have gone to ER a few times. I’ve just learned when I hit the ground I roll through it. It helps when I have something I can grab onto when I start to fall, but that’s not always possible, and then down I go. Got home from vacation this summer and was walking to my car to unroll the windows while I waited for the luggage. Stepped on the curb or something wrong and down I went. It took my knees almost 2 months to heal. Went to the bathroom after I fell and had blood running down both legs.Have fallen just walking too many times to count. If I am too tired and I take my serequal, I started hallucinating and lose all balance. I’ve tried to sit down in my recliner and can never hit where the seat is. Usually at this point I crawl to the couch and pull myself up. Back in the days I was drinking I never had this much staggering. This only happens with the serequal, at bedtime, if I’ve been up more than 36 hours.

January 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm
(26) Rocky Beta says:

I have had some terrible accidents. Twice I have fallen and knocked teeth out and needed lots of stitches, root canals and dental implants. I also had tremors from my medication but I didn’t seem to feel they effected my balance because my legs never shook like my hands (I could hardly eat soup). I started taking PROPRANOLOL off-brand and it has extremely helped my tremors. That also seemed to help my balance in general. I still have to be very careful because I seem to be more apt to falll and be “clutzy” than other people. It’s always embarrassing when my 83-year-old mother has to hold my arm when I go up/down steps and say “Be careful now.” Just in general, though, my balance is not very good and I’m not sure which medications cause them.

January 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm
(27) Lars says:

I know the issue of balance problems too. I take Lamotrigen. It used to be very serious because I was a mail man driving in car. So I had to be absent from work for a period. When I consulted my psychiatrist and told about the problem he gave me Risperidon, which was the solution. I am now back to normal in relation to balance. This summer I was travelling abroad for a week’s vacation but forgot my Risperidon. It caused minor balance problems; my sight became blurred and it seems that I became more tired during that week. But it all became a past issue after I came home and continued with Risperidon.

January 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm
(28) Rocky Beta says:

After going back to read everyone’s comments, I too have an awful perception problem parking my car. I have knocked the mirror off my car several times just backing out of my garage. Also, I took Ambien and was wandering all over the place. My pdoc finally took me off of it because she was afraid I would falll downstairs on the way to the kitchen or choke on all the junk food I would be eating without being fully aware of it. I take a lot of meds now but everytime I try to get off one, things get worse. I take:

1500mg Depakote, 100mg Lamictal, 300mg Lithium, 40mg Cymbalta, 200mg Seroquel. I still go through a lot of cycling and mixed episodes. UGH!!! Had a really bad depression/manic last month.
For sleep, 1 or 2 .05 Klonipan with one Benedryl. Very effective but groggy when I wake. I used to take 1 Klon. but I still had difficulty sleeping sometimes not at all (manic). I love these forums and comments because sometimes I feel so alone.

January 16, 2013 at 12:47 am
(29) Tom says:

Having MS and being bipolar is always a challenge for changing lightbulbs (there’s a joke in there somewhere) or even changing your mind. I took my first serious spill this past weekend, and though the muscles are finally through complaining, the thought that when I tried to get up, nothing happened was, I admit, a little scary. It took another attempt (Get up and that is an order) for the body to respond and I went about my business. You have to get on with things or you give It (or in my case, Them) the power to control. Nope. Still in charge here. But the war continues. Peace, all.

January 16, 2013 at 9:34 am
(30) dleesac says:

I take Wellbutrin and Ambien and have been diagnosed with Bipolar II. Boy, was I glad to read your entries! I have been having trouble, not only with doing things and having conversations I don’t recall after taking Ambien at night, but also with climbing a step ladder with nothing to hold onto (can’t do it), judging distances with my car (cutting corners to short and going over part of the curb), and often feeling like I’m about to lose my footing due to unsteadiness. I went through a period of light-headedness as well, which still occurs sometimes. It’s both discouraging and encouraging to read that many others are having some of these problems due to medication of some sort. Ambien is the scariest, but I don’t sleep without it. Serequel made me too groggy to function at all the next day but I’ve heard some people have luck with it. Hang in there – you have lots of company!!

January 16, 2013 at 11:13 am
(31) Tara says:

I am hearing so many of the same things about balance that it makes me want to learn if BP causes balance problems or meds. There has to be research on this.

Casey, The Dr. did put me on Prigivil My other problem that really effects me is tiredness. She said it is a stimulant too. I think it helps some. But I am always tired.

January 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm
(32) Debb says:

I too have balance issues. Sometimes its just stepping over things (I thought it was just because I have short legs LOL). But sometimes its just taking a step backwards and I lose my balance and down I go. Thank goodness I have ample padding in the posterior.

Quick decisions have also lead to some disasterous consequences. Thought it might all be chalked up to getting older. But now since you’ve mentioned these things perhaps its not just getting older.

January 17, 2013 at 9:51 am
(33) Jenna says:

I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy for 2 years before I got the right docs and diagnosed with Bi-Polar I. I’m more stable on my feet now but still run into cupboards, hit my self walking through doorways, etc. I also have non-epileptic seizures so no longer drive. This is really tough because I live 40 miles from a town and so have no transportation except through the kindness of my ex-husband. So, many changes to come including moving but what a relief to finally be on the right meds. Your blog has been so comforting as I get good insight into my situation and know I’m not alone. (I currently have a black eye…good luck with healing and a speedy recovery!)

January 17, 2013 at 10:10 am
(34) Jenna says:

I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy after a grand mal seizure and spent the last 2 years looking for the right drug cocktail. Finally changed doctors and got the tests to show Bi-Polar I with non-epileptic seizures. Now the meds are better but I still walk into doorways, hit my head on open cupboard doors, etc. I no longer drive as it’s too dangerous for others but live 40 miles from a town so need rides from my family. I will have to move so I can have public transportation but would like those who are having trouble driving to re-think this situation…it’s the pits but can be done. Good luck healing (I currently have a black eye LOL). Thank you for the blog. It really helps knowing others are working through all this too.

January 17, 2013 at 11:47 pm
(35) Beemerbeeper says:

OMG. I thought my balance, judgment and reaction time problems were not relate to my bipolar at all. I never even considered it but I have told my psychiatrist. I actually received a fairly severe concussion in July due to a bad decision and bad reaction time. All my other cognitive problems worsened after that and the docs tell me that by now I should be completely recovered but I am not. The most visible change was with my vision and I required a new and MUCH stronger prescription which I still need.
I do not think this is at all due to medication in my case. I think that it is related to the other cognitive problems that I have including memory attention, the inability to recall what I read or see or do. I am going for a cognitive eval at a speech clinic where they do cognitive rehab and am hopeful that they will have something to offer me. Accepting all the limitations I have is much harder than accepting the mood change part of the bipolar and although I have complained of cognitive problems for years this is the first time I have been referred for help. I should have looked for it on my own long time ago.

January 18, 2013 at 1:18 am
(36) Jim says:

I saw countless references to Lamictal, and a few to Effexor. I use to be on Lamictal, and just added Effexor to my arsenal of meds. One thing to keep in mind is that many drugs as both seizure and psych drugs act very much the same, so for those of us on somewhat different combinations, (like those no longer on Lamictal, but on something different), the balance challenge is still there. Since I am also epileptic, I also have a neurologist, and it is he who checks my balance. For fifty years I have had it checked, and for all fifty, have almost fallen flat on my face just doing simple things like standing with my feet together. I can’t even walk in a straight line without tripping. Is it frustrating and embarrassing at times? Yes. Is it better than having seizures and dramatic mood swings if I don’t take my meds? Sure.

January 18, 2013 at 8:11 am
(37) robert tanner says:

I am also prone to falling over; I do not know why. I can only put it down to my meds. I have always been a little clumsy ,but the meds definitly make things worse. It is a standing joke in our house that I am unable to carry two cups of tea into the front room without spilling some of the tea. Sometimes when I take the dog for a walk I tend to walk all over the place and worry that people are watching , if so they would think I am a drunk.. I do not understand it -if there is something to fall over I will fall over it. Perhaps it is to do with the meds that make me a walking disaster area. Judgement when reversing when driving, is really difficult. My meds do help and I am staying on them as the alternative is staying in bed and finding it difficult to handle the pain in my head. I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Type 2

January 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm
(38) Kat says:

As Jim said, I see that Lamictal is a recurring theme and I’ve been on that for a few years now along with Effexor. Thank God I haven’t fallen yet but I can’t look up or down without holding on to something or I probably would fall. Sometimes I feel dizzy but attribute that to Buspirone and probably the Lamictal. When I lay down at night to sleep for the first 30 seconds everything starts to spin. It’s fortuitous I’m already in a prone position. Casey mentioned Beta Blockers for her tremors and I’m going to mention that to my doctor. We still haven’t figured out my hands are shaking but it would be great to know how to stop it. It’s not only embarrassing as I work in the substance abuse field but it’s a downright pain in the …………

January 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(39) Miranda says:

Wow, I am so glad to have read this forum. I have BP1 and in the last 14 years taken an arsenal of meds. Lately I have taken extreme falls. Last week I fell twice in one day (go figure). I have ended up in the hospital with severe concusions. I was once on 1,200 mgs of Seroquel (I was that ill). I would find myself in the kitchen face down. Falling back, everywhere. I would hit the walls and my small children (very young) at the time would walk me to bed. They left me in bed and then I got up again and was once again on the floor (of course I would end up with all skicky stuff in my hair from all the sweets I ate) while drugged walking or drunk walking as I call it. I have read many here that brought up Lamictal, do you think that it is possible to cause this lack of balance? I am also on Ambien and that just makes me do all kinds of crazy sleep stuff.

January 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm
(40) Tara says:

I am very interested in all of these similarities. We seem to have similar problems. I was always uncoordiated and can Not walk on the ice. It has always been kind of funny but scary too. Epilepsy seems to be a theme. My sister and I were both epeleptics as babies, out-grew and weened of meds by age 8. My Mom has Parkinsons. She is very fortunate to be in a study where she has a pump for her meds. Not on market yet, but a true blessing for her. I know there is a connection between all of these disorders. I am interested in the connection between epilepsy and BPD and sleep disorders. I had a sleep study because of extreme exhaustion that came back negative for narcolepsy, etc. But I know I have some fatigue problem which makes me need to sleep at times. I will be deeply asleep and talk in my sleep during naps. I wonder if some kind of epilepsy is happening. Someone mentioned “non-seziure” epelepsy??? Any thoughts? I am tired most of the time.

February 1, 2013 at 1:58 am
(41) cheryetc says:

Yes its called Ataxia and it can be caused by many psych meds like Klonopin for example. I have fallen many times and tore up both my shoulers and even broken bones.

February 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm
(42) Kathleen Brannon says:

Yes! On both counts! The off balance thing comes in (long) spells, then improves for a while, then comes back. A few weeks ago, I was so off balance and had such a loud buzzing, throbbing sound in my ears that I went to the doctor. They said it was vertigo and gave me a patch to wear behind my ear and scheduled two tests. When I got home it was gone, I didn’t use the patch and canceled the tests, figuring it was my meds or my bipolar. The decision making thing is very bad for me too, I literally spend hours trying to make up my mind when I have to buy something or make a plan to go somewhere or do something. I hate that the worst, it is very embarrassing in a store, etc. I start to panic sometimes but can’t leave or drop what I’m doing either. Both of these are symptoms of anxiety, my dr. says, but I just don’t believe that. It’s gotta be the meds.

July 31, 2013 at 9:56 pm
(43) Marla Herzog says:

Yes, I have balance problems…HERE IS A GREAT thing to know..when I took Arthritis exercise classes (closed for now)..the teacher told us to always keep your head up…DO NOT look down as you walk…look about 5 or so steps ahead, see if any obstacles that could cause you to fall or lose your balance are in your way..since I have done this..I have not fallen…I used to fall at least one or twice a month..and at 60 my knees took a beating, not to mention other body parts!

August 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm
(44) Chris says:

Ouch! Hope you get better soon!

Some drugs do have ototoxic potential… they can affect you inner ear and causes all sorts of balance and hearing symptoms.

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