What causes unsteady gait? 21 possible conditions

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What Is Unsteady Gait?

Unsteady gait is a problem with walking in a coordinated manner maintaining postural control.

Alternative Names

Unsteady when walking, unstable when walking, unstable gait, instability of gait, disequibrilium when walking, disequilibrium when walking.

Synopsis

Unsteady gait is a symptom of instability while walking. Problems with walking can be due to disease or injury to the legs, feet, spine, or brain. Unsteady gait may be a direct effect of medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol, be due to a balance problem due to a problem caused by a metabolic disorder, stroke or other brain disorder, or represent a balance problem due to an injury or disease of the inner ear.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Trauma
  • Foot problems
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Epilepsy
  • Middle ear infection
  • Decompression sickness
  • Arterial air embolism
  • Hypothermia
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Brain tumor
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Neurofibromatosis 2
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Partial seizures
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seizures
  • Snake bites
  • Tay-Sachs Disease
  • Tetanus
  • Side effects of medications
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency
  • Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome
  • Huntington’s chorea
  • Restless legs syndrome

Diagnosis and Treatment

A thorough evaluation by a physician is required for unsteady gait and referral to a specialist will likely be needed. A complete history and physical will be required as well as a number of diagnostic and laboratory studies. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

Call your provider:

Whenever someone is manifesting signs of unsteady gait. It may be an indication of a serious medical or psychiatric problem.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder. It first presents with problems of movement. Smooth and coordinated muscle movements of the body are made possible by a substance in the brain calle...

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2

Muscular Dystrophies

Muscular dystrophies are a group of diseases that cause damage and weakness to muscles over time. This damage and weakness is caused by the lack of a protein called dystrophin, which is necessary for normal muscl...

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3

Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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4

Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini stroke) blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. TIA doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. TIA causes symptoms that mimic those of a stroke.

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5

Dementia Overview

Dementia may affect memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Mental impairment must affect at least two brain functions to be considered dementia.

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6

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Mad Cow Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is an infectious disease that causes the brain to degenerate. The hallmark of this brain disease is an inability to think clearly and take care of oneself.

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7

Concussion

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Usually it occurs after an impact to your head or after a whiplash-type injury. A concussion can cause many severe symptoms that affect brain function.

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8

Osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is a weakening of the bones due to problems with bone formation or the bone building process. It is not the same as osteoporosis, which is a weakening of living bone that has already been formed and i...

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9

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder. Learn about the causes, signs and research being done about AD.

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10

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of muscle movement and coordination caused by an injury to a child's brain that occurs before birth or during infancy. It affects the part of the brain that controls body movement. Othe...

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11

Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 individuals in the United States and over two million worldwide. Although it is considered a relatively rare disease, MS is of particular interest recentl...

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12

Encephalitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue. Most cases are caused by viral infections. In rare cases it can also be caused by bacteria.There are two main types of encephalitis-primary and secondary. Primar...

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13

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

One of the nine types of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic condition characterized by progressive weakening of voluntary muscles that leads to death. DMD worsens more rapidly than othe...

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14

Friedreich's Ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia is a rare genetic disease that causes difficulties walking, loss of sensation in the arms and legs, and impaired speech. It is also known as spinocerebellar degeneration. The disease causes damage t...

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15

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a type of brain disorder caused by a lack of vitamin B1. The syndrome is actually two separate conditions that can occur at the same time. Usually you'll experience symptoms o...

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16

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia (PA) is an autoimmune disorder in which the body fails to make enough healthy red blood cells (RBCs). The body requires vitamin B-12 and a type of protein called intrinsic factor (IF) to make red bloo...

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17

Paget's Disease of the Bone

A typical human skeleton consists of 206 bones. Bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. If this process is altered, bones can break down and re-form abnormally and in ways that compromise the integrity o...

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18

Aftershave Poisoning

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Aftershave is a lotion, gel, or liquid that is applied to the face after shaving. It is most often used by men. If swallowed, aftershave can produce harmful effects.Aftershave poisoning can be a medical emergency. I...

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19

Achondroplasia

Achondroplasia is a bone growth disorder that causes disproportionate dwarfism. Dwarfism is defined as a condition of short stature as an adult. People with achondroplasia are short in stature with a normal sized tors...

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20

Acute Cerebellar Ataxia

The cerebellum is the area of the brain responsible for controlling muscle coordination. If it becomes inflamed or damaged, you may suddenly lose coordination. This is called acute cerebellar ataxia (ACA), o...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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