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Sensors on Shoes Could Help Prevent Falls in Elderly Glaucoma Patients

Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that affects the optic nerve. Elevated eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent eye damage and even blindness. Because glaucoma is often painless and develops slowly, it can go undiagnosed until vision loss has already occurred. This is why it is known as the “sneak thief of sight.”

Gradual vision loss is a threat to your safety, and you are at much higher risk for falling if you have failing eyesight. This is especially true if you are a senior. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death and the seventh leading cause of death in individuals aged 65 and older (Source: Merck Manual). The statistics are also very clear that if you experience a fall, you are much more likely to fall again.

New studies show that glaucoma fall risk can be detected earlier and even reduced in the elderly by measuring changes in gait, or leg movements. A group of researchers from the University of Washington have developed special sensors for shoes that can analyze your gait and provide data that could help prevent you from falling. This is wonderful news for the 3 million Americans who have glaucoma.

A research team from the University of California, Los Angeles has joined the researchers from the University of Washington to begin a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the sensors. The team is seeking to compare movements of glaucoma patients in various stages of the disease with a control group and hopes to see definitive differences in areas such as step length, evenness of step and equity between feet. Previous research indicates that glaucoma sufferers tend to bump into objects and have unequal step placement (Source: Bel Marra Health).

One of the best ways to prevent falling is to prevent vision loss from glaucoma and cataracts. However, if you already have glaucoma or experience low vision, there are some precautions that you can take to prevent a debilitating fall:

  1. Keep rooms well-lit with higher-wattage bulbs.
  2. Use nightlights in bedrooms and hallways.
  3. Put bright colored tape along stairs.
  4. Install grab bars in bathrooms and bedrooms.
  5. Keep rooms organized and neat. Remove rugs, furniture and objects that may increase the risk of injury.

If you notice changes in your vision, talk to your eye care professional. Remember to schedule regular comprehensive eye exams to keep your vision clear and prevent glaucoma—and falls.