Decreased Balance Found in People with Poor Vision

In the elderly population, accidental falls present a significant health hazard and can result in lasting disability or even death. Falls in the elderly are often attributed to declining vision. A recent study conducted at the UC Davis Health System Eye Center took a look at the larger adult population and found some interesting correlations between eyesight and the sense of balance

In an effort to better understand how vision contributes to falls, researchers set out to compare the balance ability in groups of adults aged 40 and over who had normal vision, visual impairment, and uncorrected refractive error (blurred vision that could be remedied with corrective lenses). This study involved 4,590 adults and is the first large-scale survey to objectively measure balance as it relates to vision. Participants were assessed for their ability to stand with feet together throughout increasingly challenging conditions:  firm surface or soft foam surface with eyes both opened and closed during separate trials. Failures were counted when a participant began to fall, moved arms or feet to maintain stability, or was unable to balance for the minimum time required for each trial.

The study results showed that balance was significantly worse for the groups of participants who were visually impaired or had uncorrected refractive error. Scientists hypothesized that the reduced visual input for these individuals might weaken the vestibulo-ocular reflex that is necessary for effective vestibular balance. Also, those with visual impairment were more likely to self-report falling difficulties.

These findings illustrate how important good vision is to overall health as falls can be truly detrimental.  BostonSight® PROSE devices, which can correct refractive errors in addition to relieving the pain and photophobia that can result from corneal surface disease, are one potential solution toward helping prevent falls in adults who struggle with vision difficulties. The scientists involved in this study hope that future research on vision and balance will focus on preventive strategies that can successfully contribute to limiting vision-related falls.

Do you find that vision difficulties affect your sense of balance? What has been your experience?