Your eyes serve much more of a purpose than just reading books and deciphering road signs. You also depend on your vision to keep you safe from injury. Eyesight can deteriorate slowly, which makes it challenging to assess associated safety risks. This is especially true with glaucoma, a family of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve. Glaucoma can have very few symptoms in the early stages, but untreated glaucoma degenerates peripheral vision and eventually causes permanent vision loss.
A group of researchers from Washington State have discovered that glaucoma fall risk in elderly individuals can be detected early and reduced by measuring changes and abnormalities in their gait, or movement patterns of their legs. Specialized sensors worn on the shoes can analyze a person’s gait, and this data can help prevent falls. The researchers teamed up with a group at the University of California, Los Angeles to begin clinical trials of the sensors and will compare movements of glaucoma patients with those of a control group.
Past research clearly links glaucoma patients with increased fall risk because they tend to bump into more objects and have unequal step placement. The newly-designed sensors will analyze step length, evenness of step and equity between feet. If clinical trials go as well as the collaborative team expects, the sensors could be instrumental in earlier diagnosis of glaucoma.
Falls can be dangerous and even deadly to seniors because falls can result in fractured wrists, arms, legs, and hips. In the United States, falls are the leading cause of accidental death and the seventh leading cause of death in individuals 65 and older (Source: Merck Manual). According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the 30-day mortality rate after hip fracture is 9 percent in the elderly, and it increases to 17 percent if the senior has an existing medical problem (Source: AAOS) The best way to reduce falls is to maintain healthy vision by preventing glaucoma (Source: Bel Marra Health).
Here are some ways that you can reduce your risk for glaucoma and reduce your risk of falling:
- Schedule regular comprehensive eye exams. Preventing glaucoma begins with consistent, quality eye care.
- Exercise regularly. Staying physically active helps regulate eye pressure and can possibly reduce your risk of developing glaucoma.
- Always wear protective eyewear to protect your eyes. Eye injury can put you at higher risk for glaucoma.