A new study says that not just a loose throw rug or poor eyesight, even bloodstream, respiratory and urinary infections can cause falls, especially in older people.
The findings also suggest that while these falls may be more common in the elderly, they shouldn't be overlooked in younger people -- 20 percent of patients in the study were younger than 65.
"Over the years I have 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 of the study Farrin Manian from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US.
"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," Manian noted.
People can fall down 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.
They analyzed 161 patients who went to the emergency room because they fell and were subsequently diagnosed with a coexisting infection. Of those, 71 (44.1 percent) had a urinary tract infection, 64 (39.8 percent) had a bloodstream infection, 37 (23.0 percent) had a respiratory infection and nine (5.6 percent) had an infection of the heart valve.
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 was presented at IDWeek 2015 conference in San Diego, California in the US.