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Diabetes and Balance | Uncovering the Link Between the Two


If you have diabetes, you should know about the link between diabetes and balance issues. Here, you’ll find a guide to the connection and ways to prevent future falls.

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Written by: ADS Staff

Clinically Reviewed by: Halle Elbling, MS, RDN, CDCES

Even if you’ve spent a lot of time reading about the health effects of diabetes, you might not have heard about the close connection between diabetes and balance issues. If you’ve received a diabetes diagnosis and suffer from complications like peripheral neuropathy, you have a higher fall risk than people in the general population. According to one study, 19.4% of people without diabetes experienced recurrent falls; this statistic rose to 30.6% in people with diabetes.

Still, this doesn’t mean falls are inevitable for people living with diabetes. In this article, we’ll explain the relationship between diabetes and balance and how complications can increase your fall risk. We’ll also discuss the steps you can take to get this risk under control.

Table of Contents

Diabetes and Balance Issues

Preventing Falls with Diabetes

Get Diabetes Support with ADS

The Connection Between Diabetes and Balance Issues

Many diabetes complications can increase your likelihood of dealing with balance problems and unexpected falls, including:

Peripheral Neuropathy – Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Neuropathy is among the most well-known diabetes complications—an estimated 60-70% of all people living with diabetes also have some form of nerve damage. The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, which affects your peripheral nervous system (that is, the section of your nervous system outside your spinal cord and brain). When these nerves sustain damage, you may experience a loss of balance as a result.

If you have peripheral neuropathy, you might feel less steady or coordinated than usual while you walk. This is a result of your body’s attempts to adjust to the changes associated with neuropathy-related muscle damage, as well as feelings of numbness in your feet.

In addition to balance issues, you’ll also want to look out for other problems related to diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These are just a few of the symptoms associated with this condition:

  • Numbness. Sensations of numbness are more common than any other side effect of neuropathy. People with diabetes often describe feelings of “tingling,” “pins and needles,” “buzzing,” or “prickling”—all of which fall into this category. If you lose sensation in your legs, you’ll be more likely to develop foot ulcers, so taking these feelings seriously is a must.
  • Sensitivity to touch. Along with the feelings described above, peripheral neuropathy can cause increased sensitivity to touch in your hands, toes, feet, and legs.
  • Changes throughout the day. In many cases, the symptoms tied to diabetic peripheral neuropathy get worse at night.

Retinopathy – Diabetes-Related Eye Problems

While neuropathy is a significant contributor to diabetes and balance issues, other diabetes-related complications can also increase your odds of losing balance and falling. This can include vision loss due to diabetic eye problems like retinopathy. When you can’t see your surroundings clearly, you’ll feel less steady and find it harder to notice nearby objects.

Vestibular Damage – Diabetes-Related Ear Issues

If elevated blood sugar levels affect the small blood vessels found in your ears, your vestibular system (the part of your inner ear that assists with balance) can be impaired. Making matters worse, diabetes-related nerve damage can also impact the nerves in your ears.

Hypoglycemia – Low Blood Sugar and Balance

When your blood sugar gets dangerously low, you’re dealing with a condition known as “hypoglycemia.” Among other serious problems, hypoglycemia can lead to sudden feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness causing a loss of balance, possibly resulting in a fall.

High Blood Pressure

Since diabetes can increase your risk of high blood pressure, some diabetes patients take medications to keep their blood pressure under control. Unfortunately, these medications can impact your diabetes and balance issues due to side effects—including dizziness while standing, or “postural hypotension.”

How to Prevent Falls, Living With Diabetes

Though the direct and indirect connections between diabetes and balance issues can be alarming, there are a few easy steps you can take to prevent falls in your future. To control your risk of losing balance and falling, try to:

Manage Your Blood Glucose

When people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, they can significantly reduce their odds of developing neuropathy and retinopathy. Because of that (and many other reasons), people with diabetes need to take blood glucose control seriously.

By monitoring your blood glucose throughout the day, you can avoid both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar is at risk of going below 70 mg/dL, consume fast-acting carbs like glucose tablets or fruit juice to keep hypoglycemia at bay.


Get Physical Activity

Even after you develop neuropathy, getting active regularly can improve your balance and reduce your chances of falling. Speak with your healthcare provider about physical activity.  Here are some forms of physical activities that are suggested for people with balance issues:

  • Pool aerobics. If you have difficulty walking due to neuropathy, participating in water aerobics is an excellent way to stay active and preserve your sense of balance.
  • Gentle yoga/Pilates. Exercises like these are ideal for strengthening your core.
  • Flexing your ankles. By flexing each ankle ten times before you stand up, you can lower your risk of falls caused by postural hypotension.

Balance training. Are you dealing with especially severe balance issues? If so, formal classes for balance training can help.

Prevent Home Safety Problems

In many cases, people who suffer falls due to diabetes complications experience these falls at home. Thus, looking for tripping hazards around your house is a highly effective way to lower your fall risk.

While going through this process, you should:

  • Ensure your home is brightly lit
  • Get rid of throw rugs
  • Remove clutter from your floors
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom
  • Use a nonskid mat in the tub or shower
  • Consider adding extra stairway handrails
  • Watch out for phone, television, appliance, and other cords criss-crossing rooms or hallways
  • Make sure you have non-slip footwear and protect your feet

How Can ADS Help With Diabetes Management?

Since diabetes and balance problems are closely connected, controlling your blood sugar will make you less likely to suffer from balance issues and falls. However, managing diabetes isn’t something you can do on your own. Instead, you’ll need round-the-clock access to supplies like glucose meters, insulin pumps, and diabetes testing supplies in order to keep this condition in check.

At Advanced Diabetes Supply, we work hard to be America’s top company for people in need of products like the ones listed above. That’s why we offer top-notch customer service, rapid turnaround times, and accreditations you can count on. Take the first step towards ordering the products you need by exploring our catalog today!