For years, research has told us that older people with vision problems are more likely to die sooner than those who have good vision. But why? Do vision problems cause falls? Does failing eyesight cause car accidents?
To seek the answer to this question, researchers evaluated data from the Salisbury Eye Evaluation. This study included information about the vision and health of residents of Salisbury, Maryland, ages 65 to 84 during the years from 1993 to 2003. Researchers looked at several factors such as illness, race, gender, depression, smoking and alcohol use. What they discovered was very interesting. Of all the factors, it was the correlation between vision loss and being able to perform daily activities that impacted length of life. Men and women’s visual problems at the beginning of the study or their loss of vision did not increase the risk of early death. Rather, the vision loss made it more challenging for these individuals to pay bills, do housework and manage their lives.
Individuals who experienced vision loss equivalent to one letter on an eye chart each year had a 16 percent increase in mortality risk over eight years. This could be prevented by getting a comprehensive eye exam and new glasses or contact lenses. Sadly, many older adults either do not visit their eye doctor regularly or do not have a caregiver to take them to appointments.
Sharon Christ, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Purdue University was the lead author of the study, which was published in JAMA Ophthalmology. She responded to the results saying, “An individual who’s remaining relatively stable in their visual acuity in their older years is not seeing this subsequent difficulty in functionality.” She went on to say, “It’s really important to deal with impairment and make sure you’re getting the eye care that you need.”
Are you visiting your eye doctor regularly to have a comprehensive eye exam? One eye exam can test not only your visual acuity but can help diagnose eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, which have no symptoms in the early stages. Many degenerative eye conditions can cause irreversible damage, and visiting your eye doctor can help protect your vision (Source: NPR).
Do not be hesitant to talk to a family member or friend for assistance in taking you to the eye doctor or helping you complete daily tasks. Also, remember the importance of physical activity to keep your bones and joints healthy and limber. Take a moment to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam today. It could add years to your life.