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Eyeglass Change Might Keep Elderly From Falling

Wearing single-lens glasses while outside reduced falls among active, 'outdoorsy' elders, study says

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Older people might avoid falls if they take off their bifocal or multifocal eyeglasses while taking part in outdoor activities and rely on single-vision lenses instead, a new study suggests.

As people age, they often develop difficulty seeing things at close range, even if they already wear glasses to see at a distance. Instead of using multiple pairs of eyeglasses, they often turn to multifocal lenses -- bifocals, trifocals and progressive lenses.

But multifocal eyeglasses can affect balance and increase the risk of falls, research suggests.

For their study, published online May 25 in the BMJ, Stephen Lord, senior principal research fellow at Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues recruited 606 people over the age of 65 who were at risk of falling and who used multifocal lenses when walking outdoors.

About half of the participants were prescribed a pair of single-lens distance glasses to use when outdoors and in unfamiliar places.

Over 13 months of follow-up, all falls among those who used the single-lens distance glasses fell by 8 percent compared to the control group. Among those who regularly spent time outdoors, falls decreased by about 40 percent. But outside falls increased among those who rarely went outdoors, suggesting that the single-lens glasses aren't a good alternative for those people.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has details about preventing falls in the elderly.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, May 25, 2010

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