Purpose: To examine the association of performance-based measures of visual functioning with the occurrence of falls, fractures, physical outcomes, and limitations in an older population.
Design: A population-based study of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, of persons who were 43 to 86 years of age was performed from 1988 through 1990 (n = 4926), 1993 through 1995 (n = 3722), and 1998 through 2000 (n = 2962).
Participants: Participants in the Beaver Dam Eye Study at the 1993 through 1995 examination.
Methods: Historical information was obtained by interview at each examination. Current binocular visual acuity, best-corrected visual acuity, near acuity, log contrast sensitivity, and visual sensitivity (threshold) were measured by standard protocols at the 5-year follow-up (1993-1995) of the cohort. Outcomes were ascertained at the 10-year follow-up examination (1998-2000).
Main outcome measures: History of physical limitations, falls, fractures, and change in time to walk a measured course.
Results: The incidence of outcomes was as follows: nursing home residence, 4.6%; not driving at night, 9.7%; any fracture, 11.0%; two or more falls, 7.5%; fear of falling, 11.9%; and use of walking aids, 3.6%. The increase in time to walk a 10-foot course was 0.14 seconds. Age was associated with higher incidence of virtually every outcome and with time to walk a measured course. Incidence of not driving at night, any fracture, and fear of falling were more common in women after adjusting for age. We evaluated the relationship of outcomes to current binocular vision, best-corrected vision, near vision, contrast sensitivity, and visual sensitivity (threshold), as measured by perimetry (the latter four for the better eye). When controlling for confounders in multivariable models, the odds ratios of nursing home placement for the poorest categories of function were 3.20 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.85, 5.56) for current binocular vision, 4.23 (95% CI, 2.34, 7.64) for best-corrected visual acuity in the better eye, 5.00 (95% CI, 2.28, 10.94) for near vision, and 2.40 (95% CI, 1.46, 3.92) for contrast sensitivity. The odds ratio for not driving at night for the poorest category of visual sensitivity was 2.22 (95% CI, 1.31, 3.75). The odds ratios for any fractures for the categories of poorest function were 1.75 (95% CI, 1.02, 2.99) for current binocular acuity, 2.00 (95% CI, 1.10, 3.62) for best-corrected vision in the better eye, 3.04 (95% CI, 1.34, 6.86) for near vision, and 1.64 (95% CI, 1.05, 2.56) for visual sensitivity. The odds ratios for 2 or more falls in the past year for the poorest categories of visual function were 2.02 (95% CI, 1.13, 3.63) for current binocular acuity and 1.85 (95% CI, 1.10, 3.12) for visual sensitivity. The incidence of fear of falling was associated with the poorest category of best-corrected acuity (odds ratio, 2.95; 95% CI, 1.52, 5.70), and use of walking aids was associated with visual sensitivity (odds ratio, 3.51; 95% CI, 1.72, 7.18). Change in time to walk the measured course was not significantly associated with any of the visual functions.
Conclusions: Visual function is associated with some physical outcomes and limitations 5 years later in middle- to older-aged adults. These associations are likely to be related, in part, to the presence of other medical conditions.