Diabetes and Fall Risk
In a previous blog, we talked a little bit about how accidental falls are one of the most common, dangerous, and expensive health risks facing American seniors.
The numbers, as we mentioned then, are dire—falls are responsible for more than 3 million ER visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 fatalities per year among older U.S. adults. And even those falls that don’t cause a permanent physical injury can still have lasting psychological effects.
But here’s something you may not know. If you have diabetes, your fall risk may be especially high. In fact, according to research from Philips Lifeline, seniors with diabetes fall 30 percent more often than seniors who do not have the disease.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that about 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 60 already have diabetes, with millions more at high risk of developing it within the next several years.
If you have diabetes, it’s important that you take positive steps right away to reduce your fall risk and maintain a healthier, safer, and more active lifestyle.
Why Does Diabetes Increase Fall Risk?
One of the reasons diabetes is so dangerous is that it’s linked with many other damaging conditions, including those that can jeopardize your stability and balance.
Here are just a few examples:
High blood sugar is toxic to nerves, preventing them from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly. Over time, the sensory nerves in your feet start to lose their ability to function properly, and eventually your entire foot may become totally numb.
If you’ve lost all sensation in your feet, you can’t “feel” them in contact with the ground, or easily realize when you’re on unstable terrain, you’re much more likely to trip or lose your footing.
Neuropathy can also literally change the way you walk. You may adopt a new walking gait and posture in order to compensate for the lack of sensation, and this adjustment may also make you less stable and more likely to fall.
Although diabetes is normally associated with high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, it also carries a significant risk of hypoglycemic episodes—in other words, times when blood sugar drops rapidly and becomes dangerously low. This might happen if you accidentally take too much insulin, skip a meal, or even overexert yourself.
If you don’t take quick steps to reverse a hypoglycemic episode, you may become lightheaded and dizzy. You may even lose consciousness or experience a seizure. Obviously, these symptoms are highly correlated with falling, which can sometimes be deadly.
As we said, high blood sugar is toxic to nerves—including the optic nerve. As a result, people with diabetes are more likely to develop retinopathy, blurry vision, and ultimately blindness. The link with falls here is obvious. Poor eyesight means you’re less likely to notice tripping hazards and other obstacles that could cause you to lose your balance.
Diabetes is by far the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in the United States. You may suffer an injury that can’t heal due to poor circulation, and eventually the infection becomes so severe that amputation becomes the only option to stop the spread.
Most of these amputations are performed on feet and legs, although hands and arms are also common. In both cases, your ability to prevent falls is negatively affected—either you have no foot to balance on, or no hand to use for support if you start to tumble.
Diabetes is linked with cardiovascular diseases and conditions, including heart attack and stroke. In addition to being dangerous and deadly on their own, these conditions can also cause a nasty fall.
What You Can Do to Stay Stable
At Trinity Foot Center, Dr. Lisa Brandy provides comprehensive diabetic foot care services, as well as thorough fall risk assessments and management strategies. This broad approach helps us keep Texans with diabetes on their feet.
Diabetic Foot Care
Diabetes-focused treatments and preventative care options we provide that also help reduce fall risk include:
- Regular check-ups and screenings to identify the early signs of peripheral neuropathy, and prescribing medications to help you alleviate any symptoms.
- Prescribing orthotics, foot-ankle braces, and/or diabetic shoes to help protect your feet and maintain better stability.
- In-office wound care services (with referral to a local wound care center for severe wounds), which can help prevent amputations.
We can also help guide you on how you can do a better job managing your blood sugar, exercising safely, developing healthy eating habits, and other ways to reduce your risk of developing more serious diabetic complications.
Fall Risk Assessment
Of course, diabetes is only part of the story when it comes to fall risk.
The natural consequences of aging is another part of the story. Gradual loss of muscle mass, side effects of various medications, and other chronic illnesses not directly related to diabetes can play a role, too.
Even environmental factors, such as cluttered living rooms, poor home lighting, loose rugs, and inconvenient placement of everyday items can greatly increase your risk of an accidental fall.
At Trinity Foot Center, we can provide a fall risk assessment and help you deal with any foot or ankle problems that might be affecting your balance. Examples include:
- Replacing your poor quality footwear and prescribing orthotics if necessary.
- Fixing structural deformities like bunions, hammertoes, and flat feet, which can alter your gait patterns and increase your fall risk.
- Treating heel pain, ankle instability, and other chronic issues that can affect balance and stability.
- Instructing you in exercises that will help you strengthen your leg muscles and improve your balance.
Come See Us in DeSoto!
If you have diabetes, you should be scheduling a diabetic foot care check-up with us at least once per year. This allows us to provide any maintenance care you need, screen you for the early signs of neuropathy and poor circulation, and help you manage your long-term risk of foot complications—including falls.
And whether you have diabetes or not, if you have any concerns at all about how foot pain or deformity is affecting your balance, visit us for a fall risk assessment and effective treatment options as soon as you can.
To schedule your appointment, please call us today at (972) 293-9650.
|Monday||8:00am - 4:30pm|
|Tuesday||8:00am - 4:30pm|
|Wednesday||8:00am - 4:30pm|
|Thursday||8:00am - 5:30pm|
|Friday||8:00am - Noon|
p. (972) 293-9650
f. (972) 291-2533
1801 N. Hampton Road
DeSoto, TX 75115