• Postural Stability Changes in the Elderly with Cataract Simulation and Refractive Blur

      Anand, Vijay; Buckley, John G.; Scally, Andy J.; Elliott, David B. (2003)
      PURPOSE. To determine the influence of cataractous and refractive blur on postural stability and limb-load asymmetry (LLA) and to establish how postural stability changes with the spatial frequency and contrast of the visual stimulus. METHODS. Thirteen elderly subjects (mean age, 70.76 ± 4.14 [SD] years) with no history of falls and normal vision were recruited. Postural stability was determined as the root mean square [RMS] of the center of pressure (COP) signal in the anterior¿posterior (A-P) and medial¿lateral directions and LLA was determined as the ratio of the average body weight placed on the more-loaded limb to the less-loaded limb, recorded during a 30-second period. Data were collected under normal standing conditions and with somatosensory system input disrupted. Measurements were repeated with four visual targets with high (8 cyc/deg) or low (2 cyc/deg) spatial frequency and high (Weber contrast, ¿95%) or low (Weber contrast, ¿25%) contrast. Postural stability was measured under conditions of binocular refractive blur of 0, 1, 2, 4, and 8 D and with cataract simulation. The data were analyzed in a population-averaged linear model. RESULTS. The cataract simulation caused significant increases in postural instability equivalent to that caused by 8-D blur conditions, and its effect was greater when the input from the somatosensory system was disrupted. High spatial frequency targets increased postural instability. Refractive blur, cataract simulation, or eye closure had no effect on LLA. CONCLUSIONS. Findings indicate that cataractous and refractive blur increase postural instability, and show why the elderly, many of whom have poor vision along with musculoskeletal and central nervous system degeneration, are at greater risk of falling. Findings also highlight that changes in contrast sensitivity rather than resolution changes are responsible for increasing postural instability. Providing low spatial frequency information in certain environments may be useful in maintaining postural stability. Correcting visual impairment caused by uncorrected refractive error and cataracts could be a useful intervention strategy to help prevent falls and fall-related injuries in the elderly.