Impaired Vision in Seniors Doubles the Risk for Falls

Falls (CDC)Falls are a leading cause disability in seniors. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors. Falls can lead to a loss of independence and even death in seniors, especially if they suffer a traumatic brain injury or a hip fracture. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year one in four American seniors age 65 and older has an unintentional fall. Deaths from unintentional injuries are the 7th cause of death among seniors age 65 and older. While there are many risks for falls, impaired vision doubles the risk. More than 12 million people, aged 40 and older suffer from impaired vision and this rate is expected to double by 2050.

Eye Damage and Side-effects from Medicinal Drugs

Many seniors also suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease or stroke and many medicines to treat these diseases have side effects like dizziness or loss of balance that can lead to falls. Seniors that suffer from neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease (PD) have an especially high risk for falls.

Also, many prescription drugs to treat chronic diseases can cause direct damage to the eyes such as:

  • Blood pressure lowering meds
  • Menopause treatments
  • Anticholinergic drugs like anti-histamines
  • Antibiotic minocycline
  • Erectile dysfunction drugs
  • Osteoporosis medications
  • Cyclosporine
  • Drugs to treat enlarged prostates
  • Beta blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs
  • Anti-depressants, tamsulosin (Flomax)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Medicines for Parkinson’s disease and many more.

Eye Disorders that can Lead to Impaired Vision in Seniors

Aging raises the risks for eye disorders in seniors that can lead to impaired vision that can lead to falls such as:

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic disease and the leading eye disorder that causes vision loss in seniors over the age of 60 in the United States. The macula is a small oval-shaped pigmented area in the back of the retina in the eye. AMD damages this macula and this can destroy central vision in one or both eyes. Central vision is the ability to see things clearly that are straight ahead. In some cases this degeneration comes on rapidly and sometimes it comes on slowly. While it is incurable, there are treatments that can keep some of the symptoms under control. Some research suggests that lifestyle changes like eating lots of fruits like blueberries and grapes and colorful dark green and yellow vegetables may help to prevent AMD. Read more about this in our blog post from October 5, 2018. Smoking has been associated with a greater risk for AMD. Wearing good sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a wide-brimmed hat may help to protect the eyes from further damage from the sun.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disorder that causes pressure to build up in the eyes that can lead to vision loss. This increase in pressure is not felt and many people with glaucoma do not even know they have it. However, the failure to treat it by drops that lower the pressure in the eyes can lead to vision loss and even blindness. It can only be diagnosed with a dilated eye exam. Sometimes laser surgical procedures are also carried out to prevent or treat glaucoma.

Stroke

Stroke survivors are often left with vision problems and even blindness.

Cataracts

Cataracts cause clouding and blurring of vision over the lens of the eyes. The treatment is mainly by surgery to remove the damaged lens and replace it with an artificial one.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes can lead to destruction of the retina in the eyes and is a major cause of blindness in the United States. There is no cure for it, but insulin and glucose levels must be kept in balance. Diabetics must be under the care of an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).

Dry Eye Syndrome

Aging or sometimes a chronic eye disorder like blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) can lead to dry eyes, where the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. Dry eye syndrome is easily treated by special drops or gels that lubricate the eyes to keep them from excessive dryness. Failure to treat dry eye syndrome can lead to damage of the cornea of the eye which can affect vision.

Shingles

Shingles only occurs in people who had chicken pox. The chicken pox virus, like all herpes viruses, never leaves the body. It goes dormant in children who had chicken pox, but aging can trigger this virus to make a comeback as a completely different disease called herpes zoster or shingles. Shingles usually affects one side of the body, but there are cases where shingles can erupt inside the eyes and this must be treated immediately with anti-viral drops to prevent eye damage and vision loss.

Interventions to Prevent Falls in Seniors

See our blog post from March 26, 2018 about various interventions to prevent falls in seniors.

The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey

If you or your aging loved one need short or long-term care then take a good look at the diet and cuisine offered at the residential facility. The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey has a chef who prepares nutritious, healthy meals and tailors them also to the needs of the residents. They have a restaurant on every floor and you or your loved one will feel like you are eating out and not feel like you are eating in an institutional kind of setting.

Conclusion

It is crucial for people over the age of 40 to get a yearly dilated eye exam. Many visual problems do not present with symptoms in their early stages, but a dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist can spot the early stages of eye diseases in time to treat them so as to prevent serious vision loss and blindness.

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