Poor Vision & Falls: A Deadly Combo for Seniors

By   |  January 1, 2024

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

FRIDAY, Dec. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with vision issues are at much higher risk for dangerous falls, new research confirms.

Compared to seniors with good vision, the odds for a fall rose by 38% for seniors with glaucoma, 36% for those with cataracts and 25% for seniors with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), say a team reporting Dec. 28 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

Worldwide, over 650,000 people lose their lives to falls each year, the research team noted, and falls can be especially deadly for the frail elderly. In the United States, medical costs for falls top more than $23 billion annually.

Impaired vision is an obvious risk factor for falling, and a team at the University of Manchester in the U.K. wanted to quantify that risk.

They looked at data on vision health, falls and fractures from a national British database on over 410,000 people. Participants were typically in their 70s at the time of the study.

Besides the increased risk of falls associated with various vision ailments, the study also found a rise in risk for bone fractures.

Compared to their peers with good vision, folks with glaucoma had a 31% higher odds for a fracture, those with cataracts had a 28% increased risk and people with AMD faced an 18% higher risk, the Manchester group found.

Injuries included fractures of the hip, spine, forearm, skull or facial bones, pelvis, ribs or sternum and lower legs.

While impaired vision upped the risk for these injuries, "the majority of these eye diseases are preventable or treatable," noted the team, which was led by Jung Yin Tsang, of the university's Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research.

Regular eye exams may be crucial for seniors, since "in early stages of eye disease, patients are often asymptomatic and unaware of visual impairment," the researchers noted.

Besides getting early diagnosis and treatment of vision issues, seniors with AMD, cataracts or glaucoma may also "benefit from improved advice, access and referrals to falls prevention services," Tsang's group added.

More information

Find out more about the link between poor eyesight and falls at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: JAMA Ophthalmology, Dec. 28, 2023