Vision Loss and Depression Need Support

Of all our five senses, most people would agree they value their vision the most. It should not be surprising that rapid vision loss can make one feel isolated, helpless, sad, and depressed. Losing the ability to drive, read books, watch TV, follow recipes, and move around independently can cause clinical depression, especially for those who suffer from age-related macular degeneration.

Studies show that 1 in 4 individuals with age-related macular degeneration become clinically depressed. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over 60 years of age in the United States. Other leading causes of blindness are cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy (Source: NPR). According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), it is incredibly important to understand how to help people with sight loss. Amanda Hawkins, emotional support services senior manager said, “Every individual's experience of sight loss is different, but RNIB believes that with the right support, people who have lost their sight can live independent and fulfilling lives.”

A study led by Dr. Alberto Diniz-Filho, a researcher at the University of California in San Diego, found that the speed at which patients lose their sight is closely related to their risk of developing depression. The study examined 102 patients with glaucomatous field defects for several years. The progression of each patient's glaucoma was tracked by visual field tests and their symptoms of depression through the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) using questionnaires. The GDS gives a person a score of 0 to 15. A score from 0 to 4 is considered normal, a score of 5 to 9 is considered mildly depressed and a score of 10 to 15 is considered severe depression (Source: Optometry Today).

If you think your eyesight might be deteriorating, it is important to have regular comprehensive eye exams. It is also important to visit your primary care physician regularly to be evaluated for depression. Having a strong network of support can help you cope with vision loss, so establish a support system early if you have a condition threatening your vision.

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