Recent study links vision contrast issues to higher fall risk in seniors

Vision contrast issues may increase the risk of falling in older adults, new study shows. Source: Getty Images.

Health Direct reports that falls rank as the primary cause of accidental injury among older Australians.

Shockingly, one in four individuals over the age of 65 experiences at least one fall annually, with eyesight potentially playing a significant role.

Now a recent study conducted in the US has confirmed that the risk of a fall increases for older adults who have contrast sensitivity impairment.

According to the US’ National Library of Medicine, contrast sensitivity is the ability to perceive the sharp and clear outlines of very small objects. It’s defined as the ability to identify minute differences in shading and patterns.

It helps people to detect objects without a clear outline and distinguish them from their background contrast.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbour and the University of Utah to test the link between impaired visual contrast and falls in older adults.

As part of the study, researchers analysed cross-sectional data from a National Health and Ageing Trends study of 2951 Medicare beneficiaries. The beneficiaries were 71 years and older.

Tests were conducted in subjects’ homes and measured distance visual acuity, near visual acuity, and contrast sensitivity.

As part of the tests, falls were defined as “any fall, slip, or trip in which you lose your balance and land on the floor or ground or at a lower level,” and participants were asked whether they had fallen in the past month and if they had fallen more than once in a 12 month period.

They were also asked whether they were worried about falling and if this caused them to limit their activity.

The results were published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society and found that older adults who displayed contrast sensitivity issues were linked to a higher prevalence of falls.

The researchers wrote, “In the current study, contrast sensitivity impairment was significantly associated with recent and recurrent falls, even independent of distance and near visual acuity…

“The influence of contrast sensitivity on falls may be explained by the importance of discerning edges in the environment, like steps, curbs, and other trip hazards.”

It’s important to note that the researchers did not find a link between near or distance vision issues and falls.

“The prevalence of falls is associated with poor contrast sensitivity but not with near or distance visual acuity,” they wrote.

Based on the results, researchers proposed the need for increased cooperation between geriatric specialists and eye care professionals to evaluate and manage the risk of falls among older adults with vision issues.

Ageing is a natural part of life and fall-proofing your home would be a prudent move if you know your eyesight isn’t what it used to be. 

There are plenty of simple things we can do around the house and in our daily routines to avoid the risk of falls.

These include staying active and strong as you age, keeping your living spaces and pathways in your home clutter free, putting a stable step in your kitchen to help you reach those hard to reach places, installing grab bars in the bathroom and wearing suitable footwear at all times.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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