The Connection Between Glaucoma, Low Vision and Depression

woman with vision loss and depressionLow vision and depression can be related complications for patients who have glaucoma. Fortunately, low vision aids can enhance vision and restore independence, improving mood for many patients.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among older adults and affects more than one million Americans 65 and older. In fact, 75 percent of people who are legally blind from glaucoma are seniors.

Many seniors with glaucoma struggle with low vision, a condition in which patients still have some usable vision, but eyesight can’t be corrected with eyeglasses, contacts, surgery or prescription medication.

Low vision causes problems with daily tasks and mobility because of light sensitivity, glare and lack of color contrast. Glaucoma can make it difficult to read, perform house chores, drive a car, shop for groceries or follow a recipe. Being limited by glaucoma and low vision often results in feelings of frustration, depression and isolation.

Vision and Depression

According to a study by Crews and Campbell, older adults who have impaired vision are twice as likely to report feeling depressed compared to adults who do not have impaired vision. It can be difficult for patients to recover from depression due to vision loss. Low vision and depression can be cyclical; low vision causes depression and depression leads to further disability and reduced functionality.

Diagnosing Depression due to Vision Loss

It is important to notice signs of depression in people with glaucoma and low vision. Common warning signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Less involvement with family and friends

New research supports the use of glaucoma treatments that blend low vision therapy and mental health treatment. Older adults with glaucoma can benefit from low vision rehabilitation programs. One study found low vision rehabilitation like magnifiers, nonoptical devices and skills training reduced depression by 50 percent.

Visit an Ophthalmologist

Glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are the most common causes of vision loss among senior adults. Annual comprehensive eye exams help detect primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, in the early stages.

Because glaucoma symptoms are rare, it’s important to be aware of glaucoma risk factors like age, family history, diabetes, heart disease and ethnicity. Make an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam and assessment of your glaucoma risk. If you or a loved one has glaucoma, talk to your eye doctor about suggestions for low vision aids to increase quality of life and ensure safety.

Do you need an eye doctor who is also a glaucoma specialist? Use our Find a Physician locator tool.

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