What Are Falls?
A fall is an
accident that occurs when someone loses his or her balance, trips, or slips and
makes contact with the ground or another surface. Falls can be from a standing
position, or they can be from a surface such as a bed or a ladder.
Falls are very
common and are a leading cause of injury. According to the National Safety
Council, 8.9 million emergency room visits per year are due to falls (NSC). Some falls are serious or life
threatening. This can be especially true for the sick or elderly.
The very young
and the elderly are most at risk for falls. The elderly often lose strength,
flexibility, and balance with age. Children have not yet fully developed
strength and flexibility. These factors make falls more common.
What Causes Falls?
Falls can be
caused by a variety of factors. Often, a fall is a result of a lack of balance.
Poor health and certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, can cause
balance problems. Nervous system disorders, thyroid issues, and circulation
problems are also known to affect balance. Being under the influence of alcohol
or drugs can also impact balance, leading to falls.
Another cause of
falls is dizziness. This can result from illness, eye problems, hearing issues,
or intoxication. Certain medications can cause side effects like dizziness and
a loss of balance. These medications include those for high blood pressure,
insomnia, diabetes, or depression.
Falls are common
in walkways with debris or clutter, on uneven surfaces, wet surfaces, or
What Are the Risks of a Fall?
carry the risk of serious injury. Risks are especially serious for the elderly.
Falls are a common cause of broken bones, particularly hip fractures, for
people with osteoporosis or fragile bones. In the elderly, these types of
injuries are difficult to treat and often don’t completely heal. This may lead
to a long-term lack of mobility and chronic pain.
healthy people, falls can cause injuries including muscle strains, joint
sprains, broken bones, cuts, bruises, and head injuries. The severity of the
injury depends on the type of fall, the distance fallen, and the surface landed
If you suspect
that a person who has fallen has a bone fracture, a concussion, or another type
of serious injury, seek medical attention.
There are many
ways to prevent falls.
It is important
to exercise regularly and maintain muscle and bone strength. You can maintain
bone strength with weight-bearing exercises and by getting enough calcium and
vitamin D. Yoga and other physical activities can help to improve balance.
At home, remove
any obstacles in walkways and make sure that all areas are properly lit.
Stairwells should have handrails for safety. Use nonslip mats under rugs, and
clean up any spills or leaking water immediately. If you have children, install
gates at the top and bottom of staircases.
Wear shoes that
have proper grip, and avoid uneven areas such as cracked sidewalks and
eyesight and hearing checked every year. Talk to your doctor if you have
problems with your feet or legs that could cause unsteadiness.