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1st of 3 Columns on Balance Disorders and Falls Prevention

Northeastern Pennsylvania is home to a large elderly population and many of the medical problems we expect to see are age related. Dedicated medical practitioners are in constant search for new knowledge and information to prevent or delay many age related problems. One of the most devastating problems associated with aging is falling. It will be the purpose of this series of three columns to educate readers about the risks and causes of falling and the prevention and treatment of balance disorders.

Loss of balance causes falls. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death. Thirty percent of women and thirteen percent of men over the age of sixty-five will fall. Twenty to thirty percent of these individuals suffer moderate to severe injuries. Preventing falls is not an easy task. A good understanding of the causes of loss of balance and knowledge of a few fall prevention suggestions can enhance your balance and reduce your risk of a fall.

The causes of loss of balance which may lead to a fall are divided into three categories: age related changes, medical conditions and medications.

Age Related Changes affecting the sensory system, the musculoskeletal system as well as psychological behavior can negatively impact balance causing a fall:

Medical Conditions can also cause loss of balance increasing the risk of a fall:

Medications can also negatively effect balance and increase the risk of falls. Interactions between medications as well as the side effects of certain medications can cause dizziness or drowsiness resulting in loss of balance. Theses medications include: tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-depressants, alcohol, diuretics, blood pressure medications, cardiac medications, laxatives and pain killers.

In conclusion, determining who is at risk for a fall is a complex task since many factors including age, disease and medication can affect the outcome. Early intervention to prevent a fall can avoid many costly consequences.

Medical Reviewer: Mark Frattali, MD, ENT at Delta Medix, Division Chairman Otolaryngology – Head Neck Surgery at Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”   Next Monday Part II on Balance Disorders and Falls Prevention

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate clinical professor of medicine at GCSOM.