As a consequence of this, vision problems in seniors can also increase the likelihood of other complications such as falls.
Seventy-five per cent of all injury hospitalisations in Australia are caused by a fall for those aged 65 and over, so the numbers are significant. The mortality rate associated with falls also greatly increases with age, with falls accounting for 84% of accidental deaths in persons 65 years and over.
Let’s find out why this is happening and how it can be avoided.
Why does low vision increase the risk of falling?
There are two key factors that link deteriorating vision to an increased likelihood of falling. Firstly, an inability to see tripping hazards and secondly, balance.
To put it plainly, we just can’t see what’s ahead of us!
Research from the University of Bradford has shown that as we age there is a greater chance of tripping over obstacles, misjudging the position of steps or kerbs, or not recognising a slippery surface. Stairs, steps and kerbs are the most likely reason for falls.
The second factor is the integral role our eyes play in our balance. The body’s balance works through a constant process of position detection, feedback and adjustment, relying on communication between a network of systems.
When a key sensory input like vision is compromised, it is far more likely that someone will struggle to keep their balance, resulting in more falls.
What are the common eye problems which cause falls?
It is a common misconception that falls are an unavoidable part of getting older; that they are completely unpredictable accidents. This is not the case.
There is clear evidence that falls are associated with well-defined factors such as low vision.
The most prevalent eye diseases causing vision loss in Australians are age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Combined with uncorrected refractive errors (problems that could be fixed with prescription glasses), these conditions account for over 90 per cent of vision loss among older Australians.
Worried about your vision and the possibility of falls? Here are four easy steps to keep you on your feet:
1 - Be mindful of sudden changes in light
By the age of 65 humans need triple the amount of light to see what they did at 20 years old. It also takes people over 60 far longer to adjust to changes in light, making it difficult to judge distance and depth. Give yourself a few moments to allow your eyes to get used to changes in light, whether you’re going from light to dark or vice versa. Optometrists also recommend keeping your home well-lit at night.
2 - Make sure you wear the correct glasses for your needs
It’s not quite as simple as getting some new glasses. Be sure you know which glasses are for which situations, whether that be reading or long distance. This is particularly important if you use multifocals or bifocals - it is recommended to take extra care in your steps when wearing these types of lenses as they can make it difficult to judge your foot placements.
3 - Assess your home
Avoid clutter on the floors in your home and try to avoid rushing, particularly on stairs.
4 - If you notice changes in your eyesight, consult your optometrist immediately
It might be easy to dismiss slight changes in your vision, but consulting an optometrist on these developments is the best way to get ahead of any serious eye problems in the future. If you notice any key warning signs like spots in your vision, distorted vision or eye discomfort, visit your optometrist immediately.
Please use our Find an Optometrist search tool to find help near you. Please note some optometrists offer home visits and this can be selected by ticking the ‘I would like a home visit box’ and checking when calling for an appointment.