Falling is the number one cause of eye injuries in the United States, and
adults over the age of 60 fall most frequently. In fact, according to
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- One in four Americans aged 65 or older falls each year.
- Fifty percent of those age 80 and above fall at least once annually.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a
Eye injuries can be severe and even debilitating.
July is Eye Injury Prevention and Awareness Month, which presents an ideal opportunity for ATRIO Health Plans to increase
awareness about the risk of seniors falling and sustaining serious eye
injuries, as well as steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling.
Falling has Many Causes
We tend to associate falling with slipping on slick surfaces, missing a
stairway step, or simply losing balance as part of the aging process.
Falls, however, also are caused by a variety of other issues. Consider
Eye conditions – Older adults with strabismus (often referred to as "wandering eye")
have one eye that points slightly inward or outward, are nearly 30 percent
more likely to fall than those who don't have this condition. Other
eye disorders, including cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration,
also increase the risk of falling.
Eye glasses – Seniors who wear bifocal glasses often initially don't realize that
when they look down, their depth perception is distorted, which can lead
to falling. If you're an older adult who is getting bifocals for the
first time, don't be shy about asking your eye-care professional to
explain how to use these new lenses. Some seniors find it easier to have
two pairs of glasses—one for reading and one for walking.
Medical causes – Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and other
neurological conditions can impair balance. Significant memory loss similarly
can impact walking ability and balance, thus increasing the risk of falling.
Thyroid conditions and vitamin B deficiencies also can raise the risk
Medication – Medications that can cause drowsiness also can cause falls. Consequently,
seniors taking painkillers, antidepressants, anxiety medication, or sleeping
pills—as well as some over-the-counter "PM" medications—should
Prevention is always the priority, so take these steps to reduce your risk
of falling and potentially injuring your eyes:
- Ask your healthcare provider to assess your risk of falling and explore
ways to reduce those risks.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your prescription and over-the-counter
medications to determine if any increase your risk of falling.
- Have your eyes checked at least yearly and update your eyeglass prescription
- Do exercises that strengthen leg muscles and improve balance. Many older
adults find tai chi beneficial.
- Make sure your bathroom is outfitted with tub/shower/toilet grab bars.
- Place night lights in hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, and at the top and
bottom of stairs.
- If you feel unsteady when walking, talk to your doctor about using a cane
- Always wear slip-resistant shoes.