Diabetes Can Lead to Increased Falls Among Seniors

Diabetes can cause a host of health challenges for seniors, including high blood pressure, hearing loss, and skin conditions. Another common, but lesser-known risk of diabetes is increased falls. Research shows that the loss of sensitivity in feet, as well as other complications from the disease, greatly raises seniors’ risk of falling. A 2006 study found nearly 40 percent of diabetic seniors suffer falls. This means a much greater chance of breaking bones and experiencing fractures. Patients with some forms of the disease are 12 times more likely to suffer fractures than non-diabetic patients. The disease’s effect on feet is a key reason that diabetics experience more falls.

How Does Diabetes Lead to Falls in Seniors?

Diabetes impacts seniors’ feet in many ways. Foot conditions linked to diabetes include

  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage is frequently associated with diabetes. In feet, this can mean an inability to feel pain, heat, or cold. Because of this numbing feeling, seniors can more easily miscalculate their steps and stumble. Nerve damage can also lead to changes in seniors’ feet and toes. New feet shapes can lead to uncomfortable shoes, coordination difficulties, and increased falls. 
  • Foot Ulcers: Changes in feet and poorly fitting shoes are a frequent cause of foot ulcers in diabetics. Ulcers may not hurt, but walking on them can make them worse and lead to infection. Seniors often avoid walking on ulcers, putting more weight on their other unaffected foot. This can make them more prone to imbalance and falls.
  • Poor Circulation: Poor blood flow makes seniors’ feet less able to fight infections and heal from damage. It can also cause blood vessels in the foot and leg to narrow and harden. These hardened blood vessels and foot injuries can lead to increased trips and falls.
  • Vision Problems: Loss of eyesight is another frequent side effect of the disease. Vision problems can make it difficult to see things clearly and to judge depth. Vision impairment frequently leads to falls in seniors.

How to Reduce the Risk of Falls Associated With Diabetes

Falls can lead to serious fractures, broken bones, and injuries. American Family Physician reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to U.S. emergency departments and the primary cause of accidental deaths in patients 65 and over. Falls significantly impact seniors’ quality of life and can lead to further mobility and health issues. Recognizing feet problems associated with diabetes is essential to preventing falls.

Efforts you can take to reduce the risk falls include

  • Wearing Comfortable Shoes: Find shoes that fit the changes in your feet.
  • Having Your Eyes Checked: Ensure that your eyes are regularly checked by an eye doctor and follow his or her recommendations for glasses or vision aids.
  • Making Your Home Safe: Reduce tripping hazards by removing clutter and adding grab bars inside tubs, near toilets, or around stairs.
  • Exercise: Exercise to keep muscles strong and make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D, two key supplements that keep bones strong.

Make sure to tell your doctor about any changes that are happening to your feet. Ask your health provider for further recommendations on how to prevent falling and how to keep your feet strong. 

Taking Action Now Can Reduce Falls Later

Diabetes can be a challenging disease to manage. Increased risk of falling due to the disease adds to these challenges. But taking actions today to decrease falls can save diabetic seniors substantial pain and suffering. Reducing the risk of falls provides seniors with greater control over the disease.

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