OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare clinical and biomechanical characteristics of balance in diabetic polyneuropathic elderly patients and normal age-matched subjects. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Fifteen elderly with distal neuropathy (DNP) and 15 healthy age-matched subjects were evaluated with the biomechanical variable COP-COM, which represents the distance between the center of pressure (COP) and the center of mass (COM). Measurements were taken in the quiet position with a double-leg stance, in eyes-open (EO) and eyes-closed (EC) conditions. Subjects were also assessed with clinical balance evaluations. RESULTS: The COP-COM variable was statistically significantly larger in the DNP group than in the healthy group in anterior-posterior (A/P) and medial-lateral (M/L) directions. Furthermore, the DNP group showed statistically significantly larger amplitudes of the COP-COM variable without vision. The severity of the neuropathy, as quantified using the Valk scoring system, was correlated with COP-COM amplitude in both directions. CONCLUSIONS: Evaluation of the postural stability of an elderly diabetic population using the COP-COM variable can detect a very small change in postural stability and could be helpful in identifying elderly with DNP at risk of falling.

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