Peripheral neuropathy: an often-overlooked cause of falls in the elderly

Postgrad Med. 1996 Jun;99(6):161-72.


Peripheral neuropathy is common in the elderly and results in impairments in distal proprioception and strength that hinder balance and predispose them to falls. The loss of heel reflexes, decreased vibratory sense that improves proximally, impaired position sense at the great toe, and inability to maintain unipedal stance for 10 seconds in three attempts all suggest functionally significant peripheral neuropathy. Physicians can help their patients with peripheral neuropathy to prevent falls by teaching them and their families about peripheral nerve dysfunction and its effects on balance and by advising patients to substitute vision for the lost somatosensory function, correctly use a cane, wear proper shoes and orthotics, and perform balance and upper extremity strengthening exercises.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Foot / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Proprioception*
  • Sensation Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology*
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sensation Disorders / therapy