“I am a little worried as my eyes seem to be getting worse. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress the past month,” shared a patient with macular degeneration. Anyone with a degenerative eye disease can relate and knows about the anxiety and stress vision loss creates. For those with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the loss of one’s ability to see what’s straight ahead can mean the loss of a job, the loss of a driver’s license, difficulty reading and the inability to recognize a face. Concern over finances and the ability to live independently can promote feelings of depression, stress, and fear. As with many other eye diseases, when one is diagnosed with AMD, a sense of uncertainty and instability become new companions. When and how fast will my retinal disease progress and how will the vision loss impact my daily living are now real questions with few answers. The future seems less hopeful and the chartering of new unknown territory can rob people of their present joy.
Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)
The March 2017 issue of Optometry and Vision Science published an article called Measurement of Perceived Stress in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. A scale used to measure stress called the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used to evaluate the progression of vision loss from AMD and the patient’s perceived level of stress. 137 patients with macular degeneration at the Department of Ophthalmology at Ohio State University were given a 10 question test. Forty seven percent of those given the questionnaire were receiving anti-VEGF eye injections the day of the PSS evaluation. The study concluded that the PSS was an acceptable method of measuring perceived stress in patients with AMD.
Inflammation and Stress
Inflammation contributes to macular degeneration and stress contributes to inflammation. “Because AMD is an inflammatory disease, we are studying the link between inflammation, stress, and AMD treatment outcomes,” said Bradley E. Dougherty, OD, Ph.D., of the Ohio State University College of Optometry. “In the end, we hope to better understand how general well-being influences disease outcomes.”
Many different low vision centers, like the Chicago Lighthouse in Chicago, IL offer a variety of services for those with blindness and low vision, including the Bergman Institute for Psychological Support. They recognize an important component of living well with vision loss is learning how to cope and handle stress. Individual, group and family support is provided to address stress management with the help of staff psychologists. Learning to recognize stress and how to manage or minimize it may in fact be another way of helping your vision.
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN