A New Study about Age-Related Eye Disease and Mobility Limitations in Older Adults

The ARVO logo. It consists of the letters ARVO, preceded by the drawing of an eye

Because I’ve always admired the work of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), I was excited to read about a new low vision and mobility study in the August 23, 2011 online edition of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the official journal of ARVO.

ARVO is an international organization that encourages and assists research, training, publication, and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology, including low vision.

The study, entitled Age-Related Eye Disease and Mobility Limitations in Older Adults, examined the extent of mobility limitations in adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, or Fuchs corneal dystrophy, as compared to a control group of older adults with vision that was within normal limits.

The authors are Mihaela L. Popescu, MD, MSc; Hélène Boisjoly, MD, MPH; Heidi Schmaltz, MD; Marie-Jeanne Kergoat, MD; Jacqueline Rousseau, PhD; Solmaz Moghadaszadeh, BSc; Fawzia Djafari, MD, MSc; and Ellen E. Freeman, PhD.

They represent the following Canadian institutions and organizations: Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital; the University of Montreal, Department of Ophthalmology and Institute of Geriatrics; and the University of Calgary, Department of Geriatric Medicine.

About the Study

The authors recruited 272 patients (68 with AMD, 49 with Fuchs, 82 with glaucoma, and 73 control subjects) from the ophthalmology clinics of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal to participate in the study from September 2009 to February 2011. Control subjects who had visual acuities and visual fields within normal limits were recruited from the same clinics.

The researchers collected the following data: Questionnaires that provided information about driving, history of falls, and the Life Space score; mobility data from the “one-legged balance test” and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test; measurements of visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and visual fields; and reviews of the subjects’ medical records.

The Life Space Questionnaire (LSQ) consists of nine questions that ask whether respondents have been to certain regions within their environment within the past three days. The regions range from the rooms within their homes to travel out of the region of the United States in which they reside.

The TUG Test is used to predict the risk of falls by measuring, in seconds, the time a person takes to stand up from a standard armchair, walk ten feet, turn, walk back to the chair, and sit down again. The test time is then compared to guidelines that measure increased risk of falls and functional decline.

The Study Results (from the article abstract)

The three eye diseases were associated with different patterns of mobility limitations:

  • Subjects with glaucoma had the most types of mobility limitations as they had reduced Life Space scores, lower TUG scores, were less likely to drive, and were more likely to have poor balance than the control group.
  • Subjects with AMD and Fuchs corneal dystrophy had reduced Life Space scores and were less likely to drive.

The study results suggest that eye diseases, especially glaucoma, restrict the mobility of older people in many different ways. It is important to further explore the impact of eye disease on mobility in this population in order to develop interventions that can help affected older adults maintain their independence.