Older adults who have cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or glaucoma are at a higher risk for falls and fractures, according to a new study. Glaucoma raises an individual’s risk for taking a spill or getting a fracture slightly more than the other eye diseases. The findings were published on Dec. 28 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The researchers evaluated data from 3,434,196 people over the age of 18 in the United Kingdom. Data came from death records between 2007 and 2020. Some 410,476 people had cataracts, 75,622 had AMD and 90,177 had glaucoma. 

The participants were matched with controls who didn’t have the eye diseases to gauge if there was an increased risk among those with a disease compared to those without one. The mean age of participants with cataracts was 73.8 years old, AMD (79.4 years old) and glaucoma (69.8 years old).

The researchers estimated the risk of falls or fractures for each eye disease. An increased risk for falls was found for each eye disease, with the highest risk for falls in those with glaucoma. There was also a higher risk for fractures linked to each eye disease — again, the  highest risk was in those with glaucoma.

Overall, a greater proportion of people with eye disease compared with those without experienced falls. Compared to people without the eye diseases, the odds for experiencing a fall rose by 38% for people with glaucoma, 36% for those with cataract and 25% for people with AMD. 

All three eye diseases are linked to age-related visual loss. The diseases have been associated with falls and fracture risks, but conclusions were mixed until the current research.

“People with one or more of these eye diseases are at increased risk of both falls and fractures. They may benefit from improved advice, access, and referrals to falls prevention services,” the authors wrote.