The relationship between visual function, duration and main causes of vision loss and falls in older people with low vision

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2010 Apr;248(4):527-33. doi: 10.1007/s00417-009-1260-x.


Background: Falls are an alarming health problem and a major cause of injury among the elderly. The healthcare cost associated with falls is considerable. Visual acuity has been found to be an independent risk factor for falls; however, the results are not unanimous. Moreover, other aspects of visual function such as visual field, contrast sensitivity and depth perception have not been adequately investigated in relation to falls. The aim of this study, therefore, was to determine the relationship between visual function, duration, and main causes of visual impairment, and falls in individuals with low vision.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study involving participants attending a public tertiary eye care hospital. Participants were mobile, aged 60 years or above, and had low vision (visual acuity >0.3 LogMAR in the better eye). Details about falls in the previous 12 months and other information were collected, and patients completed a questionnaire about activities of daily living. The duration and main causes of visual impairment, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, depth perception, and visual field were assessed. Descriptive statistical analyses were performed to characterize the participants' sociodemographic and clinical data.

Results: One hundred and twenty seven patients (53%; 67 males) with a mean age of 76.3+/-8.3 years were recruited. Thirty seven percent of the participants (n=47) had mild, 50% (n=64) moderate and 13% (n=16) severe visual impairment (>0.3-0.5; >0.5-1.0; and >1.0 LogMAR respectively). The frequencies of single and multiple falls were 42.5% and 12.6% respectively. Visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, depth perception, visual field, main cause, and duration of visual impairment were not significantly associated with falls (p>0.05). In multiple regression analyses, physical inactivity remained the only variable independently associated with falls in all models except for visual field. Overall, visually impaired people were three times more likely to fall if they were physically inactive.

Conclusions: Visual function, duration and main causes of visual impairment are not independently associated with falls in people with low vision. However, a significant relationship between non-participation in physical activity and falls was found. Further work is required to investigate the association between vision-related factors and falls in older people with visual impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Low / epidemiology*
  • Vision, Low / physiopathology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Visually Impaired Persons*