Easing Depression from Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Easing Depression from Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Struggling with any health condition can be a challenge, not only for your body but for your mind as well. Dealing with a disability, pain, lack of independence, medications, doctor’s visits, and well intentioned loved ones may have you not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

Depressive symptoms could quickly arise and become significantly paralyzing especially when  it comes to losing your sight. This can be a debilitating life event that turns your world completely upside down. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the top causes of vision loss and researchers are finding that this disease may have a high prevalence for depression.

Now, rather than suffer alone, there are a variety of approaches to ease depression from AMD that the medical community is finding to be beneficial coping tools for a higher quality of life.

Real Numbers, Real Feelings

Just reading the numbers associated with AMD can be daunting. According to the Macular Degeneration Partnership,

“AMD is the number one cause of severe vision loss and legal blindness in adults over 60 in the U.S. It escalates with age. It affects 14%-24% of the U.S. population aged 65-74 years and 35 – 40% of people aged 74 years or more have the disease. In other words, more than one person in three can develop signs of age-related macular degeneration, with over 200,000 new cases diagnosed every year.”

These are some sobering statistics that give pause to the overall reach of this incurable disease. (Currently the only way to treat dry age-related macular degeneration is by taking a daily macular degeneration vitamin.) If you are afflicted with AMD or know someone who is chances are, in addition to many physical challenges, you’ll see soon signs of depression that are hard to shake.

Anxiety may be the first reaction when diagnosed with AMD but then hopelessness can takeover.

A study of combined research by Keele University scientists, published in BioMed Central – BMC Ophthalmology, concluded that,

“Overall, the evidence suggests that symptoms of depression are more prevalent amongst AMD populations than anxiety symptoms.”

Depression not only shuts down any semblance of a future but may impede overall health if not addressed as soon as possible.

Behavior Activation

There is rehabilitation for just about every physical affliction but when it comes to symptoms such as depression only talk therapy has been available. Although important, talk therapy may not enable patients to put into action some useful skills to immediately apply to AMD and vision loss challenges.

Reported in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), AMD coping skills have recently been implemented by a team of psychologists, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and occupational therapists in an approach called behavior activation.

Most patients diagnosed with AMD would be sent home to deal with their affliction in their own manner. However, this was seen as casting someone out to a stormy sea in a row boat without any oars, life preservers or safety equipment.

By combining eye care professionals with health care professionals, AMD patients are now being given care options that include, according to the NIH study, “low-vision devices, to make changes around the home (such as using brighter lights and high-contrast tape), to increase their social activities, and to help them set personal goals and break these down into manageable steps.”

Dr. Robin Casten, a co-author and an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. comments,

“Behavior activation involves helping people to focus on activities they enjoy, to recognize that loss of those activities can lead to depression, and to re-engage in those activities,”

AMD and Beyond

As more studies of ways depressive symptoms could be alleviated for AMD arise, the same coping skills are now being applied to peripheral afflictions. Diabetes is one disease that has been linked to the development of AMD and therefore poses the potential for applying self-care tools to reduce depression. By utilizing these tools for eye disease linked to diabetes, heading off depression has shown to be highly advantageous.

In a randomized controlled clinical trial as reported by Bel Marra Health,

“The participants either received intervention in the form of large-print written and audio tools incorporating cognitive-behavioral principles plus three 10-minute telephone calls, or usual care…The researchers found that the intervention reduced depressive symptoms by 2.1 points more than usual care.”

Results from the trial concluded that, “Self-care tools plus telephone coaching led to a modest improvement in depressive symptoms in patients with age-related eye disease.

Don’t let depression rob you or a loved one of adjusting to a new way of life with AMD that can be just fulfilling as any healthy individual. All it takes is a hands-on approach that assists in every step of the way to re-build confidence, independence and overall joy for a brighter future beyond the dark.



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