Have you seen this video? It is a nice report by Dr. Gupta of CNN about falls and injury? It is a few years old but still highly relevant, maybe even more so today as we are moving into the age of the “Silver Tsunami”. You should take a couple of minutes to check it out here.
There are several important facts in the report such as:
“30 percent of seniors who break their hip die within a year.”, “get rid of rugs” (people tend to trip on them and fall), and the importance of exercise to improve balance is mentioned. But the good Dr. Gupta actually forgot something important when he was asked this question by Katie Couric:
“What are the causes of these balance problems among the elderly population?”
This is a complex multifactorial problem and Dr. Gupta sort of looks like he is put on the spot! He refers to the patient in the story, Diane Schraeder, and that she happened to have an “inner ear problem, something that can be treated”. Sure, it is true that inner ear balance problems can be treated but that does not mean that they can be cured. Then Dr. Gupta replies that causes of balance problems can be dementia (not sure about that one…), “some vision problems” (yes!) and “some motor problems or just a little bit weak” (muscle weakness may not be a cause of balance problems but it may make it more difficult to correct balance). Dr. Gupta then correctly states “it can even be a new medication” that causes balance problems. Yes, it is well known that certain medications, on their own or in combination, can cause balance problems and increase the risk of falls. If this is something you experience you should review your medications with your doctor. Most of the time this can be mitigated.
So what did Dr. Gupta forget to mention as an important cause of balance problems? Peripheral Neuropathy! Something millions of patients suffer from!
Patients with Peripheral Neuropathy gradually lose sensation in their feet and foot pressure is a very important part of our sense of balance. In an upcoming blog we will discuss emerging technology that can help replace lost foot pressure sensation and provide new tactile sensory cues for balance!