Fell down recently? Blame it on infection, not poor eyesight

Did you have a fall recently? Whatever the reason, here’s why you shouldn’t take it lightly. According to a new study, there are chances you were tripped up by an infection, rather than poor eyesight or that banana peel.

Bloodstream, urinary and respiratory infections are the most common culprits for infection-related falls, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital study. The findings also suggest that while these falls may be more common in the elderly, they shouldn’t be overlooked in younger people: 20% of patients in the study were younger than 65.

“Over the years I’ve been struck by the fact that some of the more serious infections I treated were in people who came to the hospital because they fell,” said principle investigator Farrin A. Manian. “Even though many of the patients had vague early signs of an infection, such as weakness, or lethargy, it was the fall that brought them in.”

Although it’s unclear how many falls are caused by infection overall — other research puts the number between 20 and 45% — it’s clear that many people, including family members, caregivers and even some healthcare providers, don’t recognise the connection.

People can fall because the infection may cause low blood pressure — and therefore lightheadedness and dizziness — or because it adds to confusion in older patients with dementia, according to the researchers.

The findings suggest that family members, care givers and healthcare providers shouldn’t rush to judgement about the cause of a fall, particularly in an older person, and should consider whether the person was ill or not feeling well before the incident happened to ensure the patient is diagnosed appropriately and can receive timely treatment. The study is being presented at IDWeek 2015.

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