[Falls of older individuals: medical assessment].
Falls are one of the most common problems that threaten the independence of older individuals. They usually occur when impairments in multiple domains compromise the compensatory ability of the individual, as is the case for many geriatric syndromes. A number of the physical conditions and environmental situations predispose to falls. The medical risk factors of falls are reviewed. Falls in older individuals are rarely due to a single cause. Mechanisms that maintain postural stability are altered with aging (balance, gait speed, cardiovascular function). Female gender, past history of a fall, cognitive impairment, lower extremity weakness, balance problems, psychotropic drug use, arthritis, history of stroke, orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, and anemia represent the most frequent causes of risk of falls. Physical examination should focus upon the above mentioned risk factors and also on the presence of orthostatic hypotension, visual acuity, hearing assessment, examination of the extremities for deformities or neuropathies, and carotid sinus hypersensitivity which contributes to falls in people with unexplained falls. In conclusion, assessment of older individual at risk of falls or who fall present medical specificities. However, these latter specificities should be included in a comprehensive assessment which focus on intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Interventional strategies including comprehensive and interdisciplinary assessment lead to effective prevention.