• accidental falls;
  • aged 80 and older;
  • randomized;
  • controlled trials;
  • vision disorders

OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy of vision and eye examinations, with subsequent treatment of vision problems, for preventing falls and fractures in frail older people.

DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial.

SETTING: Community in Sydney, Australia.

PARTICIPANTS: Six hundred sixteen men and women aged 70 and older (mean age 81) recruited mainly from people attending outpatient aged care services.

INTERVENTIONS: The intervention group received comprehensive vision and eye examinations conducted by a study optometrist. The optometrist arranged for new eyeglasses for 92 subjects and referred 24 for a home visit with an occupational therapist, 17 for glaucoma management, and 15 for cataract surgery. The control group received usual care.

MEASUREMENTS: Falls and fractures during 12 months of follow-up were ascertained according to self-report using a monthly postcard system.

RESULTS: Fifty-seven percent of subjects fell at least once during follow-up. Falls occurred more frequently in the group randomized to receive the vision intervention (65% fell at least once; 758 falls in total) than in the control group (50% fell at least once; 516 falls in total). The falls rate ratio using the negative binomial model was 1.57 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.20–2.05, P=.001). Fractures were also more frequent in the intervention group (31 fractures) than the control group (18 fractures; relative risk from proportional hazards model 1.74, 95% CI=0.97–3.11, P=.06).

CONCLUSION: In frail older people, comprehensive vision and eye assessment, with appropriate treatment, does not reduce, and may even increase, the risk of falls and fractures.