Improving vision to prevent falls in frail older people: a randomized trial

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Feb;55(2):175-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01046.x.


Objectives: To determine the efficacy of vision and eye examinations, with subsequent treatment of vision problems, for preventing falls and fractures in frail older people.

Design: Randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Community in Sydney, Australia.

Participants: Six hundred sixteen men and women aged 70 and older (mean age 81) recruited mainly from people attending outpatient aged care services.

Interventions: The intervention group received comprehensive vision and eye examinations conducted by a study optometrist. The optometrist arranged for new eyeglasses for 92 subjects and referred 24 for a home visit with an occupational therapist, 17 for glaucoma management, and 15 for cataract surgery. The control group received usual care.

Measurements: Falls and fractures during 12 months of follow-up were ascertained according to self-report using a monthly postcard system.

Results: Fifty-seven percent of subjects fell at least once during follow-up. Falls occurred more frequently in the group randomized to receive the vision intervention (65% fell at least once; 758 falls in total) than in the control group (50% fell at least once; 516 falls in total). The falls rate ratio using the negative binomial model was 1.57 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.20-2.05, P=.001). Fractures were also more frequent in the intervention group (31 fractures) than the control group (18 fractures; relative risk from proportional hazards model 1.74, 95% CI=0.97-3.11, P=.06).

Conclusion: In frail older people, comprehensive vision and eye assessment, with appropriate treatment, does not reduce, and may even increase, the risk of falls and fractures.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Eyeglasses
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Treatment Failure
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / therapy*
  • Visual Acuity