Fear of falling may cause social isolation in older adults with vision problems

December 11, 2012

A new study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that between 40 to 50 percent of older adults with visually impairing eye disease limit their activities due to a fear of falling. Vision scientists warn that this protective strategy puts seniors at risk for social isolation and disability.

In the paper, "Activity Limitation Due to a Fear of Falling in Older Adults with Eye Disease," researchers report on their examination of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and Fuchs corneal dystrophy, as compared to a control group of older adults with good vision. Of the three groups with visual limitations, the patients with Fuchs corneal dystrophy were the mostly like to report activity limitation due to fear of falling, followed by those with glaucoma and the AMD group.

"I expected all of the groups to limit their activities due to a fear of falling but I was a bit surprised that the group with Fuchs corneal dystrophy was the most likely to limit their activities," says Ellen E. Freeman, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Montreal, Québec, Canada. "I was also surprised at how frequently people with eye disease reported limiting their activities due to fear of falling. Clearly, this is something that is affecting many people with eye disease."

The research team conducted a cross-sectional study of 345 patients (93 with AMD, 57 with Fuchs, 98 with glaucoma and 97 controls) from the ophthalmology clinics of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal. Questionnaires and vision tests were given to each patient. Only 16 percent of controls with normal vision reported activity limitation due to a fear of falling compared with the 40 to 50 percent of patients with eye disease.

Results also showed that people who reported activity limitation due to a fear of falling were older, were more likely to be females, had worse vision, were more likely to be depressed and had greater comorbidity.

Freeman points out that their findings are not only relevant to older patients with eye disease, but to their families, physicians and to those providing low vision rehabilitation services. "It is important to know more about which activities are being limited due to fear of falling. We can then develop and test interventions to help people feel more confident about their ability to safely do those activities," she says. " If we could develop a brief, effective intervention focused on select activities, I would like to see it offered in the clinical setting. Then, we could encourage people to see a low vision rehabilitation specialist if they want more training."

The research team concludes that older adults with eye disease should stay as mobile as safely possible to help prevent morbidity associated with a sedentary lifestyle, mobility disability and mortality.

Explore further: Study suggests vision insurance associated with eye-care visits, better reported vision

Related Stories

Study suggests vision insurance associated with eye-care visits, better reported vision

December 10, 2012
Vision insurance for working-age adults appears to be associated with having eye care visits and reporting better vision, compared with individuals without insurance, according to a report published Online First by Archives ...

Study confirms genetic predictor for Fuchs' corneal dystrophy

May 7, 2012
Mayo Clinic and University of Oregon researchers have confirmed that a genetic factor called a repeating trinucleotide is a strong predictor of an individual's risk of developing the eye condition Fuchs' dystrophy. The findings ...

Corneal thickness linked to early stage Fuchs' Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy

April 9, 2012
A national consortium of researchers has published new findings that could change the standard of practice for those treating Fuchs' Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD), a disease characterized by cornea swelling that can ...

Glaucoma-related vision loss may increase risk for auto accidents

November 11, 2012
The first study to compare accident rates for drivers who have advanced glaucoma − an eye disease that affects peripheral vision − with normal-vision drivers, found that the glaucoma group had about twice as many accidents. ...

Study finds people with vision loss from glaucoma at higher risk of falling

November 9, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A world-first Queensland University of Technology (QUT) study has found that people suffering from more extensive vision loss from glaucoma are at a higher risk of having a fall than those with better ...

Recommended for you

World's blind population to soar: study

August 3, 2017
The world's blind will increase threefold from about 36 million today to 115 million in 2050 as populations expand and individuals grow ever older, researchers said Thursday.

Simulations signal early success for fractal-based retinal implants

July 27, 2017
Computer simulations of electrical charges sent to retinal implants based on fractal geometry have University of Oregon researchers moving forward with their eyes focused on biological testing.

Scientists regenerate retinal cells in mice

July 26, 2017
Scientists have successfully regenerated cells in the retina of adult mice at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

Genome editing with CRISPR-Cas9 prevents angiogenesis of the retina

July 24, 2017
A research team from the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear has successfully prevented mice from developing angiogenesis of the retina—the sensory tissue at the back of the eye—using gene-editing ...

Too little vitamin D may hinder recovery of injured corneas

July 24, 2017
Injury or disease in combination with too little vitamin D can be bad for the window to your eyes.

Combination of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea indicates eyesight loss within four years

July 4, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered that patients who suffer from both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea are at greater risk of developing a condition that leads to blindness within an average ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.