Clouds in Your Eyes: Cataracts and Your Risk of Falling

September 6th, 2014

As you age, it’s normal to experience a decline in visual acuity. That’s why it’s important to visit your eye doctor regularly. Your doctor can help you maintain a prescription that allows you to see things clearly and also alert you to impending vision problems, such as cataracts, that can increase your risk of falling.

What are cataracts? According to the Mayo Clinic, they are the result of a thickening and stiffening of the lens of the eye that can develop as your eyes age. This process creates ocular clouding that may not be immediately obvious, as it doesn’t noticeably interfere with sight. Early symptoms often include faded colors, halos around lights, and a decline in night vision. As the condition becomes more severe, you might notice double vision in one eye or an apparent cloudiness that can mimic looking through foggy or frosted windows.

Risk Factors

Who’s at risk for cataract development? While heredity can play a role, other factors that can contribute to cataracts include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and the prolonged use of corticosteroid medications. Controlling these risk factors may prevent or slow down the formation of cataracts, but if you should develop them, the only option for treatment is surgical removal.

If you notice any visual changes such as cloudiness, halos around lights, or increased sensitivity to light, see your ophthalmologist for a thorough examination to check for cataracts or any other eye conditions.

Planning Ahead

Those with cataracts may find they have to alter their lifestyles to adapt to the visual changes. For example, you may need magnifying glasses to read fine print, or you may find it increasingly difficult to drive at night. As with any visual impairment, cataracts can also increase your risk of falling. While going through your home and removing fall hazards is advisable for any senior, it becomes more critical for those with cataracts. Maintain clear walkways in your home and keep rooms well lit to prevent tripping over unseen obstacles. Remember that, for seniors, falls can mean more than just a few bumps and bruises — they can cause serious, life-threatening injuries that may take away your mobility and independence.

It’s always smart to have a plan in place should a fall occur. Check in with family regularly and consider a medical alert system as a way to get immediate help in any emergency.