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Why Do Falls Happen?

man getting blood pressure exam Falls can happen for many reasons. The main factors that can cause a fall include:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Trouble with gait (or walking stride) or balance

  • Side effects of medications or combinations of medications

  • Previous falls and fear of falling

To prevent and reverse some of these risk factors, you can stay physically active, manage your medications, address fear of falling, take steps to see clearly and find and fix fall hazards in the home.

There are other factors that may also cause a fall. Read on to learn about these factors and what you can do to address them.


Chronic Conditions

Dizziness is a common side effect from medications, but can also be caused by a decrease in blood pressure upon standing, inner ear problems or high blood pressure.
  • Tell your doctor about any signs of dizziness when rising from bed or after sitting. You may need a detailed medication review.
  • Drink a lot of water. Dehydration can cause dizziness or make you feel lightheaded.
  • Always rise slowly from a seated position. After you get up, wait a minute before walking. Learn more about managing low blood pressure and talk with your doctor.
  • If you are still having trouble with balance, your doctor may refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to check for a balance disorder. See more information on balance problems.
Diabetes and treatments for diabetes can cause low blood sugar, which can lead to dizziness, unsteadiness and can cause a fall. Some anti-diabetic medications can also cause confusion.
  • See your provider regularly and keep a detailed diary to help better manage your diabetes. Learn more about managing your diabetes.
Nerve damage can cause numbness in your hands and feet and lack of coordination. A common cause is diabetes, but vitamin deficiencies and other conditions can also cause nerve damage. Speak with your doctor if you notice any tingling, weakness or pains in your hands or feet.

Foot problems can cause pain which may affect your mobility. Speak with your doctor about foot conditions, numbness, and loss of feeling in your feet or if you have any ulcers or sores that won’t heal.

Incontinence can cause you to be anxious and rush to the bathroom. Some medications for incontinence may also cause low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness.
  • Make sure you keep a night light near where you sleep and in the bathroom, or keep a flashlight by your bed.
  • Keep the pathway to your bathroom clear.
Depression [Español] [中文] may cause you to be less active and put you at risk for falling. Depression can also decrease your ability to be aware of your surroundings or changes in your environment.
  • Talk with your provider, nurse or case worker if you’ve been feeling depressed. Ask about alternatives to medications as antidepressants can increase fall risk.
  • Remember, even small amounts of physical activity can improve your mood. See some tips on how to get started with exercise.
Osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak and brittle and may cause severe back pain. It can also increase your risk of breaking a bone if you do fall. Learn more about osteoporosis and speak with your provider.

Arthritis and chronic pain can cause you to limit your physical activity, which may put you at risk for falling. Learn more about physical activity for people who have arthritis and speak with your doctor or physical therapist for help.


Other Risk Factors
Improper use of a walker, cane or another assistive device may increase your risk of falling.
  • Talk with your doctor about seeing a physical or occupational therapist. They can help you choose the right assistive device and provide training on how to use it properly.
Alcohol or drug use may increase the side effects of your medications. Also, as you age, your body reacts to alcohol and drugs differently. Learn more about how alcohol use affects older adults and speak with your doctor.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults. Vitamin D helps strengthen bones and increase muscle mass. Talk with your doctor to see if taking Vitamin D is right for you.


Last Updated: March 28, 2012