Losing Sight & Feeling Hopeless

Depressive symptoms in people with partial vision loss

(RxWiki News) Partial vision loss can impact many daily activities. Coping with losing the ability to drive or read can take an emotional toll that may need treatment.

A recent study interviewed a group of people for depressive symptoms and loss of a certain level of eyesight.

The researchers found that partial vision loss, which made daily tasks difficult or impossible, was linked to depressive symptoms.

The authors recommended that healthcare professionals screen for depressive symptoms in patients with vision loss.

"Depressed?  Talk to a doctor."

Xinzhi Zhang, MD, PhD, from the Division of Data Management and Scientific Reporting at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, led an investigation into depression in US adults with vision loss.

For the study, researchers looked at 10,480 patients aged 20 years and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2008. People with blindness in both eyes were excluded from the study.  

People with functional vision loss were included in the study if they had some vision, but had uncorrectable partial vision loss that made tasks like reading, driving, doing work or hobbies and daily activities difficult or impossible to do without assistance.

Interviews revealed that 11 percent of participants with some level of functional vision loss, or with trouble seeing clearly, had symptoms of depression. 

Only 5 percent of participants without any vision loss and 7 percent of participants without any functional vision loss had symptoms of depression. 

Researchers took factors like age, marital status, education, health insurance, employment and other health conditions into account when looking at links between loss of sight and depression.

The researchers found that even after making adjustments for the factors mentioned above, the odds that a person with vision loss would have depressive symptoms were nearly double compared to people without functional vision loss.

No increased odds for depression were found in people who had trouble seeing clearly versus people who had no trouble seeing clearly.

“Health professionals should be aware of the risk of depression among persons reporting visual function loss,” said the authors.

The authors recommended improved screening and treatment for depression in people with functional vision loss.

This study was published in March in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Agencies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health provided funding for this study. No conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
March 17, 2013