AMD & Low Vision Awareness Month: Preventing Falls

Person using white cane while walking outside

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to highlight current research on AMD, other eye conditions, and falls. 

Fall Risk and Low Vision 

A recent British study finds people with cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are at a 33% greater risk of falls or fractures than people who do not have these eye conditions. The researchers reviewed existing doctor and hospital medical records from 2007-2020. To arrive at their conclusions, they compared records of people with these eye conditions versus those who did not have them. 

In their summary, the authors recommend people with these eye conditions could benefit from education and fall prevention services.  

Fall Prevention and Plans 

You can gather information on fall prevention at the APH ConnectCenter VisionAware site. To begin, visit Redesigning Your Home and Fall Prevention. Audrey Demmitt’s article Protect Your Independence: Create a Fall Prevention Plan  offers tips to help prevent a fall and how to locate fall prevention programs such as  Stepping On. Learning to use a white cane is another good preventative practice. 

Another part of fall prevention is understanding more about the eye conditions cited in the study and what you can do to prevent or manage them. 

Cataract, AMD, and Glaucoma 

  • A cataract is when the normally transparent lens inside the eye progressively becomes cloudy, yellow, and hardens. How does a cataract affect vision? A cataract causes an overall blurring of vision. People, objects, and colors look hazy, cloudy, and “washed out.”  
  • Age-related macular degeneration is a gradual, progressive, painless deterioration of the macula, which is the small area in the center of the retina that provides detailed vision. How does AMD affect vision? AMD causes overall blurring or a blind spot in the central vision. 
  • Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can lead to blindness by damaging the optic nerve. How does glaucoma affect vision? Glaucoma results in peripheral field loss, which can progress to the point of total blindness if left untreated. An individual with loss of peripheral vision has what is called “tunnel vision.”  

Early Detection 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) states early detection is critical. Getting an eye exam is important, especially if you are over 65 or have a family history of eye conditions. If you cannot afford an exam, there are resources available such as EyeCare America.  

Journalist Kimberly Goad addressed the Risk of Falls study cited previously and reviews factors related to vision and falls in the article 3 Common Eye Diseases That Raise Risk of Falls. The five factors include: 

  • Balance 
  • Posture 
  • Gait 
  • Spatial awareness 
  • The ability to respond to obstacles in the environment.  

Goad notes conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure can exacerbate both the fall risk and injuries that occur from falls. According to the CDC, older adults generally are at higher risk of falling. At least one quarter of people 65 and older fall each year for a variety of reasons, including vision. 

Learn More  

Prevention and Intervention: Impact of Low Vision and Risk of Falls – YouTube 

Facts About Falls | Fall Prevention | Injury Center | CDC