13th December 2018
3 minute read
Categorised under:
Eye Health

Cataracts and depression | Sight loss linked to poor mental health in the elderly

In a previous post, we highlighted how vision loss can affect an individual’s quality of life and dependence, as well as increasing their risk of fall and injury. But, it can also have a detrimental effect on an individual’s mental health. Here we explore the relationship between cataracts and depression.

Increased depressive symptoms in older adults with cataracts

Age-related cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide, and the number of cases are expected to surge as the elderly demographic increases. Depression is also common in older adults. A study in Chinese older adults investigated the link between visual impairment and depressive symptoms, and provides evidence for an association between cataracts and depression. Published in the December 2016 edition of Optometry and Vision Science, the research was conducted by Haifang Wang, MSc, of Soochow University, Suzhou, China, along with several colleagues.

Approximately 4,600 people over the age of 60 completed a questionnaire to partake in the study. They were also given a clinical eye examination to establish whether they had cataracts and if so, how severe they were.

Excluding those who had surgery for the condition in the past, 49 per cent of participants had cataracts, which clouds the lens, in at least one of their eyes. Depressive symptoms were reported in eight per cent of subjects, but symptoms were more common in women and the oldest members of the group. The link was shown to be independent of other factors, and the researchers discovered that older adults with the lowest educational background were the worst affected.

Evidencing a link between cataracts and depression

From examining the data collected the researchers found that depression was 33 per cent more probable if a person had cataracts. Interestingly, indications were similar whether the cataracts were in just one eye or both, indicating that an operation to have the cataracts corrected could significantly improve the mental health of many elderly people.

The researchers concluded: “Our study sheds further light on the complex relationship between aging, vision loss, cataract, and depression and suggests that there may be a role for cataract surgery in improving mental health in the elderly.”

Michael Twa, OD, PhD, FAAO, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science, said: “These results suggest that optometrists and vision care professionals should think beyond the direct effects of cataracts on visual impairment. We should also consider the broader impact that vision loss may have on mental health and well-being.”

“As a next step, it would be important to know if the associated depression in older adults is reversible following the restoration of vision after cataract surgery.”

It is extensively evidenced that there are wider physical and mental health implications for an individual with cataracts. It is important to monitor the severity of the condition, and seek advice where necessary. You do not have to live with cataracts, if you feel it is impacting on your lifestyle and health, seek advice from your GP or Optometrist.

If you are suffering from depression you can get help. Click here. 

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