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With diabetic nerve damage, walking can pose fall risk

From March 26, 2015 for the original article.

Diabetics with nerve damage are more likely to have an uneven stride and struggle to maintain their balance even when walking on flat ground, a small study finds.

So-called peripheral neuropathy, or diabetic nerve damage, can lead to numbness and pain in the feet, legs and hands. It is the most common complication of diabetes, and though it has long been linked to an increased risk of falls, less is known about how specific body movements contribute to balance problems during daily activities such as walking or climbing stairs.

"By investigating the activities during which falls are more likely to occur, we can look to identify specific detriments of the underlying balance mechanisms, allowing a more targeted and educated approach to preventing falls within this population in the future," lead author Steven Brown, of Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, said in an email interview.

About one in nine adults has diabetes, and the disease will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

Most of these people have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and advanced age and happens when the body can't properly use or make enough of the hormone insulin to convert blood sugar into energy.

Roughly 70 percent of diabetics have some form of neuropathy, according to the National Institutes of Health. While the risk increases the longer people live with diabetes, nerve damage may be limited by keeping blood sugar as close to normal as possible.

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