Cataracts are considered an expected part of aging; as they are an age-related disease. Almost half of Americans suffer from cataracts by the age of 75. Fortunately, laser cataract surgery has undergone tremendous advancements, and is a long way from the outdated methods that doctors used to use. Nevertheless, they are an upsetting reminder of the inevitable process of getting older and can leave those that they affect feeling vulnerable about their own independence.
This sentiment was echoed by a study in the recent issue of Optometry and Vision Science. The study looked at the effects of cataracts on older individuals beyond the obvious vision problems. They found a link between depression and cataracts in older individuals and report that this link is independent of other factors.
The study was an illuminating exploration of the relationship between aging, depression, and vision loss and raises interesting questions about the role of cataract surgery in treating mental health.
Understanding links like this will be especially important over the next couple of decades. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide – in some parts of the world, cataracts sufferers still rely on ineffective methods like couching to treat the problem. Additionally, the world’s population is only getting older, which means the number of people who will be suffering from vision loss due to cataracts will only grow larger. This makes a comprehensive understanding of the effects of cataracts, both vision-related and otherwise, extremely important.
The study consisted of elderly participants aged 60 or older in a Chinese town. They were asked to complete a questionnaire on depression. Almost half of the survey’s participants had cataracts in at least one eye. They also underwent eye examinations so that researchers could determine how severe each participant’s cataracts were. Eight percent of the participants reported having symptoms of depression. When researchers took a closer look at the results, they found that depressive symptoms were 33 percent more likely in participants with cataracts. There was no significant difference in the odds depending on whether an individual had cataracts in one eye or both.
It’s unclear how this relationship develops. Researchers are curious: does vision loss cause isolation (a factor that leads to depression) or does depression make those suffering from cataracts less likely to seek treatment? An interesting correlation the researchers found was that lack of formal education for those with cataracts led to a 50 percent increase in their likelihood of depressive symptoms.
“These results suggest that optometrists and vision care professionals should think beyond the direct effects of cataracts on visual impairment,” remarked Michael Twa, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science. “We should also consider the broader impact that vision loss may have on mental health and well-being.”
Dealing with vision loss can be difficult. If you think you have developed cataracts, let the dedicated specialists at Feinerman Vision guide you through the process of treating cataracts. One of our Feinerman ophthalmologists are ready to explain the process of laser cataract surgery and help you obtain all the information you need to feel confident about the treatment process. Give us a call to book an appointment at our Newport Beach location today.