In a meta-analysis of 6 articles, a Chinese study group found that the risk of falls was higher in the case of older diabetes patients compared to non-diabetic individuals; as well, risk falls were higher in insulin-treated diabetes patients compared to those without insulin treatment.
Falls are a major concern for older adults that affects around one-third of this population yearly, leading to fractures and hospitalization. Recurrent falls may affect the quality of life as well. In diabetic elderly patients, falls and recurrent falls are even more frequent with an annual incidence of 39% and 30.6%, respectively. This increased incidence may be due to sensory dysfunctions (neuropathy, retinopathy) and therapy-induced low blood sugar levels, but the association is not well proven.
A Chinese group of authors published their systematic literature review in Age and Aging recently on the association between diabetes mellitus and the incidence of falls. They collected six articles on the topic that compared diabetic and non-diabetic individuals over the age of 60 years, with a total of 14,685 patients. 25% of diabetic and 18.2% of the non-diabetic participants experienced falls during the study period, and older diabetic individuals had a 64% greater risk compared to healthy controls. Also, insulin-treated diabetic patients had a significantly higher risk of falls compared to those without insulin treatment, probably because of the better glycaemic control and higher incidence of low blood sugar levels.
In conclusion, the risk of falls was greater in older diabetic adults, especially in those whose diabetes was treated with insulin. Further studies are needed to investigate the association between diabetes and the severity of falls, as in the case of older patients, falls are usually more severe.
Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros, PhD