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Neuropathy May Make You Fall More

The body has a complex mechanism of checks and balances for all functions of the body.  One such function is the ability to maintain balance and "stand upright".  The checks and balances in the body are based on three distict systems of the body: the eyes, the ears and the feet.  These systems work together carefully to provide balance and to limit frequent falls.  Let's discuss each individually.


The Eyes --

When it comes to balance, most of us have an easier time with our eyes open.  In fact, a medical test for balance problems is often done with the eyes closed.  The eyes are utilized to look at the horizon and recognize when the head or body are tilting.  If the horizon becomes crooked, the brain stimulates the body to adjust.  This system can malfunction over time, however, due to loss of sight (as with age), cataracts or even blindness.  This system also has a harder time assisting in the dark.

The Ears --

The inner ear has a system of canals lined with little hairs (cilia) that when the head tilts are stimulated with little rocks in the area.  This sends a signal to the brain that the body is loosing its balance.  This is a system that is malfunctioning when you get vertigo or feel the room spinning.  This is often the cause of diziness also.  This system can also degrade or fail over time, as with deafness, vertigo, or other diseases of age.

The Feet (Proprioception) --

The feet also play a key role in maintaining balance.  This is done through a process called prioprioception, where the pressure sensors in the feet measure the amount of pressure on each foot.  This allows someone to adjust their balance even in the dark or with the eyes closed before balance is lost.  When neuropathy sets in and the sensation is decreased or lost to the foot, proprioception is also gone. For this reason, a person with neuropathy may experience poorer balance or more frequent falls and can even fall bad enough for a significant injury.  Can neuropathy cause loss of balance?  Yes, and it often does.

Protect these three areas of your body, and your risk of falling goes to almost zero.

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute