Recognizing the Mental Health Changes that May Come with a Diagnosis of AMD
May is Mental Health Awareness month. With the end of the month and the joys of summer fast approaching, it is now or never to recognize the links your health diagnosis may have on your mental health. A prior study reported that patients with low vision experienced twice the depression that the blind experienced and five times more depression compared with normal populations.
A 2013 national study of adults aged 20 and older published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology (JAMA) concluded that, "self-reported visual function loss...is significantly associated with depression." Also, AFB's Aging and Vision Loss Fact Sheet notes an increased risk of depression among older people with vision impairment.
Anecdotal evidence from low vision doctors over the years noticed that about 1 in 10 low vision patients attending the clinic had some form of mental health problem. Furthermore, all low vision patients who attended the low vision clinic showed a general reduction in their quality of life. A diagnosis of permanent vision loss can often affect far more than just the ability to see; it alters how a person views the world by impacting virtually every aspect of a person's life, from how to dress, eat and work to how to maintain independence. By properly addressing these issues, low vision optometrists help patients lead the fullest possible lives, while avoiding needless concern, fear, despair and depression. Relief from depression after vision loss won't be found in isolation. Relief can emerge when we reach out and connect with others to do fulfilling and meaningful activities. It can feel lonely and overwhelming to deal with vision changes, but remember, you're not the only one who has felt this way.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of depression due to low vision, please seek help. To reach a qualified low vision optometrist with extensive training and experience in dealing with the visual issues of macular degeneration, you may locate a member of The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists near you by contacting their website:
www.LowVisionDoctors.com or calling 1-888-778-2030.