Vision and Mental Health Team-up to Curb Depression in AMD Patients

With roughly 30 percent of AMD patients suffering from depression, the cost of blindness is anticipated to increase dramatically as our aging population drives up the number of people suffering from age-related vision loss. Not only are there medical costs to consider, but depression also increases disability and mortality rates. For this reason, a new study was conducted to determine the efficacy of combining mental health and low vision treatments. The results were quite intriguing.



When patients are diagnosed with low vision due to AMD, typical treatment involves an assessment of their remaining functional vision and prescriptions for visual aids with instruction on their proper use. Despite being diagnosed with an incurable, life-altering condition, no mental support or counseling is part of the current treatment plan.


Patients are not likely to recognize the symptoms of depression and fail to seek adequate help because they attribute how they feel to aging, struggling with the cost of blindness, and losing their independence. For this reason, researchers from Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Dartmouth Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine designed The Low Vision Depression Prevention Trial (VITAL).


Conducted at the AAO, VITAL found 188 patients that had been diagnosed with AMD by ophthalmologists and showed signs of early depression. All involved were provided with two sessions of clinic-based optometric rehabilitation designed for low vision. Afterward, they were randomly divided into two groups that received two types of in-home psychological treatment. The first group received behavior activation therapy, which encourages patients to be self-sufficient and remain social, while the second group received supportive therapy, which let patients express their feelings over their disability and lifestyle challenges.


Participants who received behavior activation therapy fared twice as well over those who did not, and surprisingly, the patients with more serious vision loss obtained the greatest benefit. Those who received supportive therapy showed little to no improvement over patients who had no mental therapy at all.


Early detection of AMD in your patients using ultra-widefield imaging technology from Optos and starting them on a multi-disciplinary treatment might reduce the cost of blindness and help your patients maintain a suitable quality of life. Contact Optos today to learn about the diagnostic instruments that can help your practice be a front-runner in early detection of AMD.