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Diabetes and Fall Risk

As you age, your chances of experiencing a fall increase.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that one-third of people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year in the U.S.  And recent studies have shown that you become even more of a fall risk if you’re over 65 and have also been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Not only are individuals with diabetes almost twice as likely as their non-diabetic peers to experience a fall, they are also twice as likely to become injured from their falls.

Conditions that Contribute to Falls

Hypoglycemia/Low Blood Sugar

Diabetic hypoglycemia occurs when there is too much insulin in your blood and not enough sugar.  Low blood sugar can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness, which can cause you to fall down in the middle of whatever it is you are doing.  Whether you are in bed, in the kitchen making a sandwich, or watching TV in your living room, low blood sugar can strike at any time and have dire consequences.

Hypoglycemia usually occurs if you take too much insulin, skip a meal, or exercise more vigorously than usual.  According to the Mayo Clinic, early signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia include: shakiness, dizziness, hunger, irritability or moodiness, sweating, muscle weakness, blurry or double vision, drowsiness and confusion.

Hyperglycemia/High Blood Sugar

Hyperglycemia can occur when your insulin levels are low, or if you’ve eaten more than you planned to (or exercised less than planned).  It can also be triggered by stress or common illnesses such as cold or flu.  If hyperglycemia goes untreated, you could fall into a diabetic coma, also called ketoacidosis, which can have grave consequences.

Signs of early hyperglycemia include high blood sugar levels in the urine, frequent urination and increased thirst.  If you ignore these symptoms and end up in ketoacidosis territory, you might start to feel shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting and extreme dry mouth.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that is commonly experienced by people with diabetes.  According to the National Institute of Health, “about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy.”  Neuropathy causes pain, numbness, tingling, or even loss of feeling in the hands, arms, feet and legs.  This can often lead to dangerous falls.

The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy range from mild to severe—often going unnoticed and building up over several years before causing major discomfort.

Eye Disease

The Glaucoma Research Foundation estimates that as many as 25,000 people go blind each year due to diabetic eye disease.  Diabetic eye disease refers to eye conditions that include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.