When a Small Trip Can Turn into a Dangerous Fall

Whoops!  You tripped on that floor mat, again!  And this time you almost fell on the floor.  Falls are not just a ‘normal part of getting older’.  And while yes, as we age our chances for falling do increase, it doesn’t mean it has to happen! In fact, falls are caused by a number of risk factors for people of any age.  So what are the risks associated with trips and falls and what can be done to prevent them?

Types of Risk Factors For Falls

If you experience any, or a combination, of the following you could be at an increased risk for trips or falls:

  • weak muscles, especially in the legs
  • poor balance, causing unsteadiness on your feet
  • foot problemsincluding pain, gait, and deformities
  • vision and hearing problems
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • taking medication that makes you dizzy or drowsy
  • Vitamin D deficiency

Weak muscles

Our muscles gradually get weaker as we get older, affecting our strength and balance and making it more difficult to undertake daily activities.  As well as normal changes caused by ageing, there are a number of reasons why our muscles get weaker, including:

  • lack of physical activity and exercise
  • conditions like arthritis

Poor balance

A number of things can cause poor balance, including:

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Foot problems

There are many conditions that can cause discomfort to the feet, which in turn can lead to an increased risk in falls.

Problems such as:

  • corns, calluses bunions,ingrown or thick nails and foot ulcers
  • Improper gait– over pronation or under pronation
  • Poorly fitted footwear; you wouldn’t want to wear flip flops to a construction site
  • Numbness in the feet such as neuropathy, sometimes linked to diabetes, can leave you unable to fully sense where your foot is on the floor, also leading to an increased risk of a fall

Scheduling a visit with your podiatrist can help address your foot problems and assist in eliminating the risk factor for falls.

Vision and hearing problems

Problems with your vision and hearing can make it more difficult to move around safely.

Eye problems can make it difficult to anticipate and spot slip or trip hazards in your home.  As we get older, changes to our depth perception and ability to adjust to changes in lighting can also contribute to the risk of falls.  If you wear bifocal or varifocal lenses in your glasses, you might sometimes find it difficult going down steps, stairs and curbs. If you wear bifocals, you may want to have a pair of distant only glasses for your outdoor activities.  Cataracts, glaucoma and vision-related problems linked to stroke or dementia can also increase your risk of falling.

We are finding more correlations in falls and loss of hearing from studies in the last 5-8 years.  Studies have found that when we lose our hearing, our brain is having to overwork with limited resources. So while you should get your eyes checked regularly, you should also have your ears checked too.

Dizziness or lightheadedness

There are a number of reasons why someone might be dizzy or lightheaded. It’s not normally a sign of anything serious, but should be checked out by a doctor.

Understanding why you become dizzy is important to counter the risk of falling. Some of the most common causes include:

  • a drop in blood pressure when getting up from lying or sitting
  • inner ear problemssuch as inner ear infections and wax blockages
  • problems with your heart rate or rhythm
  • dehydration

Medication

The side effects of some medicinessuch as dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, blurred or double vision, and difficulty thinking clearly, and taking more than 4 medicines at the same time, can increase your chance of falling.

Medications that most commonly cause these symptoms include:

  • psychotropics (tablets to treat low mood)
  • blood pressure-lowering medications
  • sleeping tablets and sedatives
  • anticonvulsants (medication for epilepsy)
  • over the counter medications

Side effects can vary from person to person depending on their age, weight, gender, ethnicity and general health, so it’s important that you know and understand how your medications can affect you to prevent falls from occurring.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D improves muscle function and strength. The weaker your muscles, the more likely a fall is to occur.  Vitamin D can be obtained from a supplement or foods such as fish, red meat, eggs, and fortified foods like cereal.

Trips and falls can be caused by so many different factors.  By taking your specific situation into consideration and taking note of the fall risk factors that relate to you, falling can be preventable.  If you have noticed an increase in tripping or falling, contact your doctor, which also includes your podiatrist, to discuss your concerns.

We are here for you at Dr. Hollander, DPM to help you at any time, one step at a time.  Call today to speak with our friendly staff members at (707) 578-1222.

If you are in need of more information on fall prevention, the CDC has several helpful brochures you can download at any time for free.