To investigate the association between balance and gait measures with fall rates in glaucoma patients.
Balance and gait were measured for 239 participants with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma. Daily falls were evaluated over 24 months. Annual accelerometer trials captured average daily steps. Multivariable negative binomial models evaluated balance and gait associations with average daily steps and rates of falls per time or step, as well as whether balance and gait parameters mediated the association between integrated visual field (IVF) sensitivity and falls.
Average age was 70.5 years (SD = 7.6), and 22% of the participants had moderate to severe visual field damage. Over the first 12 months of the follow-up, the cumulative probability of falling one or more times was 44.8%, and the cumulative probability of falling two or more times was 17.7%. Gait deficits were associated with fewer daily steps (P < 0.03), but no balance parameters were (P > 0.19). Worse balance was associated with a higher rate of falls per year and step (P < 0.03). No gait measures were associated with the rate of falls per year (P > 0.17). More time in double support and greater swing time variability were associated with higher falls per step, and higher velocity and faster cadence were associated with fewer falls per step (P < 0.05 for all). Neither gait nor balance measures mediated the relationship between visual field damage and fall rates. IVF remained an independent predictor of falls per step (rate ratio = 1.36 to 1.48; P < 0.001 to P < 0.005) in multivariable models including individual balance/gait parameters.
Although balance and gait measures are associated with fall rates, they do not explain why persons with greater visual field damage fall more frequently, suggesting the importance of other potential factors such as hazard perception.