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Falls: managing the ups and downs of MS Why do people fall?

Falls can happen to anyone irrespective of age or medical condition. Falling is the commonest cause of accidental injury in the UK, with more than 2.7 million people affected each year.

In the majority of reported cases (over 65%) falls cause no serious harm other than perhaps embarrassment and dented pride. However, the consequences of falls can be serious, ranging from distress and loss of confidence, through to injuries, pain and loss of independence.

Many falls are caused by a combination of factors, both to do with objects in the environment - such as tripping over something - and health related issues. Not all health related risks are due to MS. People with other conditions such as low blood sugar, ear infections or reduced mobility from arthritis will also have a higher risk of falling. Similarly, the risk of falling increases with age, regardless of any health issues.

Some of the MS related factors that increase the risk of falling include:

  • Visual problems
  • Problems with mobility and balance
  • Continence problems
  • Problems relating to concentration, poor memory or other cognitive symptoms
  • Side effects of medications

These factors and ideas for reducing risks are discussed later.

Statistics from
National Patient Safety Agency.
Slips, trips and falls in hospital: the third report from the Patient Safety Observatory, PSO/3
London: National Patient Safety Agency; 2007

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