Vision Loss: Why You Should Better Recognize Depression Symptoms

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Depression and Vision loss linked
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More than one out of every 10 adults who report vision loss have clinically meaningful symptoms of major depression, according to a new study published March 7 in JAMA Ophthalmology. Losing the ability to perform activities of daily life makes it especially important to better recognize signs and symptoms of depression.

For the large cross-sectional study, researchers analyzed data from over 10,000 adults who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2008. As a result, they found that adults with vision loss were 90% more likely to be depressed than those with intact vision.

Depression was more common in those with reduced visual acuity that could not be corrected, but researchers did not find any significant association between visual acuity and depression.

"Likely, the association between vision loss and depression could be related to other factors in addition to reduced visual acuity, particularly the disability that vision loss causes in a person's life," explained the researchers, who added that the relationship between vision loss and depression is probably due to the disability worsening depression and the depression then exacerbating the disability.

Moreover, depressed people may fail to seek care if they experience a loss of vision, or they may not comply with treatment recommendations if they do seek care.

"Our findings suggest that eye care professionals should consider patients' psychological conditions and provide referrals to those exhibiting depressive symptoms," said Xinzhi Zhang, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health.

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"Improved access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of depression by eye care professionals and primary care providers may help to reduce the burden of depression-related excess disability and improve the quality of life among people with vision loss," said Zhang.

Depression and Vision Loss Linked, but One Doesn't Cause The Other

After accounting for a number of factors, such as age, sex and general health, Zhang and his colleagues concluded there was a significant association between self-reported vision loss and depression, although the study did not show that one causes the other.

"This study provides further evidence from a national sample to generalize the relationship between depression and vision loss to adults across the age spectrum," the team said in a journal news release. "Better recognition of depression among people reporting reduced ability to perform routine activities of daily living due to vision loss is warranted."

Signs and symptoms include of Depression: (Source NIMH)

* Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
* Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
* Irritability, restlessness
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
* Fatigue and decreased energy
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
* Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
* Overeating, or appetite loss
* Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
* Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Reference: Association Between Depression and Functional Vision Loss in Persons 20 Years of Age or Older in the United States, NHANES 2005-2008. March 7 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

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