Progressive Lenses May Raise Risk of Falling

Health Writer
Medically Reviewed

Q. My mother has just gotten her first eyeglasses with progressive lenses and has fallen twice. Could her glasses be the reason?

A. Maybe. A recent study found a significant link between the risk of falling and "optical blur" caused by progressive lenses.

The lenses can cause blurring of the lower field of vision, which then affects the accuracy with which people step, according to the study published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science in June 2016.

While the blurring may not be a problem on level, uncluttered surfaces, it can be a major issue when precision stepping is necessary—for example, when using stairs or walking on uneven pavement.

But the blur is not the only problem. When people walk, often their gaze is fixed not on where they are going to step but rather on where they’ll land a couple of steps later.

The further ahead the gaze is fixed, the more likely a person is to miss the next step. With blurring from corrective lenses, the stepping error is significantly greater.

There are a couple of things your mother can do to lessen her risk of falling. One is to practice keeping her gaze fixed on exactly where she needs to step until her foot touches down. And the other, especially if she is an active person, is to get a pair of single-vision prescription eyeglasses to wear when walking.