Even Moderate Vision Loss Increases the Risk of Injuries in Older People

It’s no surprise that failing eyesight leads to more accidents, but a new study shows early intervention to correct even minor visual impairment may prevent injury.

Decreased vision in older people is commonly related to an increased risk of falling, and a new study has scientifically evaluated this link. The goal of the study was to determine whether visual loss was associated with a higher incidence of injurious accidents and whether walking speed or physical activity influenced this association.

416 people aged 75 to 80 years were tested for visual acuity. Those testing at less than 20/60 in the better eye (with spectacle correction when necessary) were defined as visually impaired. Those tested with visual acuity between 20/60 and 20/40 were defined as having lowered vision. Those testing at greater than 20/40 were defined as having normal visual acuity.

Hospital records of accidents with injuries were monitored for ten years, during which 239 participants (58%) suffered at least one injurious accident. Even considering other factors (age, gender, eye-related diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), the risk of injurious accidents for participants with lowered vision was 1.45 compared with those with normal visual acuity.

Interestingly, participants with visual impairment did not have an increased risk for accidents over those with lowered vision, and neither walking speed nor physical activity had a mediating effect on the relationship between visual loss and accidents.

Researchers have therefore concluded that lowered vision is a risk factor for accidents in older people independent of mobility and physical activity.

In light of this research, early intervention strategies such as proper correction of vision or cataract extraction are truly important in preventing accidents in the elderly.

SOURCE: Kulmala J, Era P, Parssinen O, et al. Lowered vision as a risk factor for injurious accidents in older people. Aging Clin Exp Res 2008;20(1):25-30.