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Fall Prevention Through Appropriate Screening

Dizziness and vertigo are among the top three reasons why patients visit a physician. Back pain and headaches comprise the other two reasons. 

Dizziness and vertigo are among the top three reasons why patients visit a physician. Back pain and headaches comprise the other two reasons. Symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo and imbalance actually are estimated to affect 40% of patients 40 years of age and older. Of those age 65 years or older, 25% are estimated to suffer a fall and thus a fall related injury. Falling is typically a direct consequence of dizziness, primarily in this group of elder individuals and risk of falling can increase considerably when those individuals have other problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or any of the gamut of neurologic defects such as Parkinson’s. A sample report of US emergency room visits, from 1995-2004, confirmed that vertigo and dizziness were indeed high on the list of reported presenting complaints as reason for reporting to the emergency room. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey demonstrated that individuals with symptomatic vestibular dysfunction have a 12-fold increase in the probability of incurring a fall. It has also been associated that more frequent medical consultation, sick leave, and interruption of daily activities in general, have been related to dizziness symptoms, particularly vestibular vertigo. Medical research on ill health is commonly disease focused as opposed to symptoms related. This generalized approach may actually underestimate the reality of such common symptoms as vertigo and dizziness, which as mentioned, rank high as patient complaints in primary care, yet evade accurate diagnosis and remain unexplained in 80% of cases. Making matters worse, even though symptoms of vertigo and dizziness can be associated with a wide variety of other conditions, all of which necessitate a multidisciplinary approach to management, said dizziness symptoms rarely prompt appropriate referral to a qualified specialist for proper evaluation. The most frequent conditions which cause such symptoms as vertigo and dizziness for the most part remain largely undiagnosed outside of specialty clinics such as my own. Because of the substantial risk of injury and the resultant decline in independence and/or quality of life following a fall, predicting who is at risk is most helpful, and for those who reduce that risk through a fall prevention program such as ours, falls and otherwise impending fall related injuries may be prevented. Our office does just that using computerized technology, which ironically, only takes seconds to perform. Balance is not a single physiologic function. The sensory inputs for balance include vision, vestibular, and proprioceptive feedback. While a person is walking, the brain must instantaneously integrate this information and execute appropriate motor planning. This function must be supported by an adequate neuromusculoskeletal system. All of these factors change with age. Further, any disease related decline in any of these systems further impairs balance. Bilateral vestibular loss is a significant contributor in 25% of elderly patients with imbalance. Untreated vertigo is a severe risk factor for falling as well. Our office, as a community service, does not charge for balance/risk-of-fall analysis. Call my office (below) to be screened.