New Study Finds Link Between Glaucoma and Depression



A recent study in Mexico discovered glaucoma patients have a tenfold greater risk of developing depression than the general population.

Glaucoma is one of the world's leading causes of vision loss and a leading cause of blindness. It can be a psychological and financial burden and cause significant stress. According to a study published in the Journal of Glaucoma, glaucoma severity directly impacts depression incidence and severity, as well as patient compliance.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a family of diseases characterized by optic nerve stress caused by spikes in inner eye pressure. More than three million Americans have glaucoma, but only half are aware they have the disease. Often, glaucoma does not cause any noticeable symptoms until vision loss occurs.

Depressed Glaucoma Patients Are Less Compliant

The study examined 111 patients with glaucoma, and about half of the patients were depressed. The researchers found a direct relationship between the worse eye's glaucoma severity and the severity of depression. Patients who were depressed were 38 times more likely to not adhere to their treatment plan than patients who were not depressed.

Researchers suspect patients with the most severe glaucoma may fall into a dangerous pattern. The associated depression with severe glaucoma may cause these patients to resist taking medication and attending eye doctor appointments, thereby exacerbating glaucoma and depression.

The authors of the paper wrote, "Patients with a decreased visual field become physically impaired due to the chronicity of their disease such as when they perform certain daily activities such as driving. The possibility of becoming blind generates anxiety and social withdrawal and the elevated cost associated with medical and surgical treatment adds to their stress" (Journal of Glaucoma).

The study suggests patients with glaucoma should create a team of specialists, including an ophthalmologist, glaucoma specialist, psychiatrist and psychologist to produce the best outcome.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Anyone can develop glaucoma, and it is a challenging disease to diagnose and treat. Are you familiar with the risk factors of glaucoma? You may be at increased risk for glaucoma if you:

  • Are 60 or older
  • Are diabetic
  • Are severely nearsighted
  • Have a family member who has glaucoma

Call Your Ophthalmologist

An annual comprehensive eye exam includes a glaucoma screening. During your exam, your ophthalmologist can perform a test to evaluate your inner eye pressure and let you know if you are at risk for developing glaucoma.

Optic nerve damage is permanent, so there is no cure for glaucoma. Therefore, it is imperative to detect glaucoma early. Early detection allows for immediate intervention to stop the progression of glaucoma. There are many treatments available to manage the condition such as:

  • Laser treatments
  • Medication
  • Traditional surgery
  • MIGS-minimally invasive glaucoma surgery.

A board-certified eye doctor can help carefully manage your glaucoma so you can maintain your active lifestyle.