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Diabetes Increases Fall Risk For Seniors
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more than a quarter of adults over 65 have diabetes.  Elders with diabetes also have a higher risk of falling, fall more often, and are more likely to break a hip than elders without diabetes. Diabetes is associated with several complications that increase the likelihood of falling.

Complications

Short-Term Complications

  1. Low Blood Sugar/ Hypoglycemia: Reasons for a drop in blood sugar, include skipping a meal, illness, exercising more strenuously than normal or not adjusting medication when blood sugar levels change.  Symptoms include sweating, shakiness, weakness, dizziness and nausea. With profound drops in blood sugar, persons may experience slurred speech, a change in their mental status and confusion.
  2. High Blood Sugar: Occurs with uncontrolled diabetes or those who don't know they have diabetes, stress, illness or infection. Signs and symptoms include excessive thirst and increased urination, weakness, leg cramps, and confusion.

Long-Term Complications

  1. Eye Damage: Causes retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma, which makes it difficult to see things clearly, interferes with depth perception and the ability to quickly adjust from bright to dim light and vice versa.
  2. Nerve Damage/ Neuropathy: Characterized by a loss of sensation in the feet and legs, leading to unsteady balance when standing and walking.  Decreases the ability to feel pain, heat, and cold, thereby increasing foot injury and affecting balance.
  3. Kidney Damage: Kidneys nephropathy can cause urinary incontinence and/or increased nighttime urination, necessitating the need to get up at night. 
  4. Poor Circulation: Leads to gangrene and amputations of parts of lower extremities.
  5. Bone Damage: Leads to osteoporosis that increases the risk of injury, especially hip fractures.

How to manage Fall Risk with Diabetes

The best way to reduce the risk of falls is to avoid diabetic complications.
  1. Educate Yourself:  Awareness and education are key to managing the disease and reducing the risk of problems. Visit the American Diabetes Association web site.
  2. Get Regular, Ongoing Care : Regular check-ups with your doctor can help detect problems with blood sugar early when they can be treated and managed well.
  3. Medications: Take diabetic medications and injections as prescribed.
  4. Low Blood Sugars: Be alert for signs of low blood sugar, which can come on quickly.  Have hard candy, sugar packets, juice, or soda on hand to quickly raise the level of blood sugar.
  5. Maintain a Diabetic Diet: Often times a strict diet is necessary to keep blood sugar in balance and greatly reduce side effects. A dietician can educate on the proper diet for each situation.
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