Preventing Depression in Macular Degeneration Patients

Upon being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, it is perfectly normal for some people to go through a bout of mild depression as they begin to accept the inevitable deterioration of their vision. What is not normal, however, is experiencing an extended sadness that feels chronic or constant.

Depression with macular degeneration often stems from feelings of rage, frustration or fear; and rightfully so.Boredom, feelings of isolation or loneliness are common. The reality is that depression is very common among people with low vision diseases. In fact, one study showed that AMD sufferers are nearly three times more at risk of depression than the general population.1

Depression with macular degeneration is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Sufferers must recognize that depression is a legitimate disease that requires professional assistance, much like AMD. If you have been diagnosed with AMD, or know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease, it is important to be aware of the common symptoms of depression. Refer to this list of symptoms that could call for treatment:

Social withdrawal:  If you notice a loved one who’s been diagnosed with AMD withdrawing socially, it could be a sign that they’re feeling depressed. A loss of interest or pleasure in activities that they normally enjoy is often a clear indication.

Fatigue or loss of energy: Being diagnosed with AMD can be quite stressful on an individual. For some people excessive worry can be extremely trying. If you notice a loved one is sleeping a lot more than usual, it could be cause for concern.

Insomnia: Alternatively, when adapting to life with AMD, it can be difficult to acquire adequate rest. Severely depressed individuals may be too preoccupied with thoughts of suicide or despair to sleep. Inability to sleep can be a precursor or an indicator of depression.

Weight gain/loss: If you notice a loved one who’s been diagnosed with AMD is suddenly gaining or losing a substantial amount of weight, it’s possible that they are not coping with the news very well.

So, how can you treat AMD influenced depression? Remember, it is not your fault! Discussing options with your doctor is always the first line of business, but addressing the problem outwardly can be helpful as well. Act on the following suggestions, along with advice from your doctor if you’re feeling depressed due to an AMD diagnosis:

Exercise: Just because your vision is deteriorating, doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. There are plenty of ways to get active. Physical activity has been shown to be an effective remedy for depression in many people. It actually releases the endorphins that make us feel happy and stabilize our moods.

Diet: Consider your diet. Ask your doctor about switching diet if you suspect that yours is insufficient or affecting your mood. Asparagus, for example has high levels of folate and tryptophan. (Low levels of folate have been linked to depression) Remember to eat a variety of colours to ensure you get the nutrients (like lutein and zeaxanthin) that your eyes need.

Music: Listening to music can be extremely therapeutic for anyone! It’s a particularly great option for low vision sufferers because it doesn’t require vision, so you’ll be able to rest your eyes while you enjoy it. Listening to music is a distraction from a “blue” mood and your favourite songs are even said to boost levels of dopamine. The Beatles, anyone?

Get Involved: Seek out an AMD support or discussion group in your area. Easily find one by searching the internet or asking around. Connecting with people who are going through a similar circumstance can be very powerful.

For the most part, depressive responses arising from unexpected, difficult circumstances like macular degeneration don’t last a long time. In some cases, however, they do. It’s important to seek help if you’re dealing with depression and it’s equally important to watch out for the aforementioned symptoms if your loved one is struggling with a macular degeneration diagnosis.  Remember, it is very possible to live a fulfilling, comfortable life with macular degeneration. You don’t have to go blind.

 Did you or did you know someone who struggled with depression after being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration? How did they cope? Share with us.

6 thoughts on “Preventing Depression in Macular Degeneration Patients

  1. Depression can set in for those with macular degeneration for many reasons. Perhaps they are more socially isolated because they can no longer drive or have dropped out of group activities, like bridge games because of trouble seeing the cards. An important issue to address is that the person with macular degeneration needs to let others know about their eye condition and vision loss. For example, instead of pulling out of your bridge club, tell your friends about your situation and ask if they wouldn’t mind playing with large print cards. My guess is that they would be happy to accommodate your request.

    1. Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for your response. I fully agree with you! AMD patients should never be ashamed of their condition. As you said, most people are completely willing to make minor adjustments to help those with low vision. With AMD, communicating feelings is key.

  2. I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago and with the help of anti-depressants, I have been able to catch myself before bouts of depression gets a good hold of me. I am living on disability for the PTSD and several other factors and I spend a great deal of my time on the computer or at my craft table where I can let my creative expression run rampant and I enjoy my life. Recently however, within one month, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss, and now, with macular degeneration. If my hearing gets worse, I do know sign language, ASL, so I would at least be able to communicate with people and enjoy being able to see them. If I were to lose my eyesight, it would be difficult, I’m sure, but I’m also sure I would eventually get my act together and be okay. Losing both? I don’t mean to put the cart before the horse, but the though of losing both hearing and eyesight is terrifying! I’m not sure I’m fully equipped to deal with it if that were to happen and I’m scared to death! I’m not expecting you or anyone else reading this to do anything about my fears; I just needed to vent.

    1. Laura. First of all, thanks for reading and for your comment. Very sorry to hear of your current situation. Do you know what stage the AMD is in? Please also remember that AMD does not cause FULL blindness. It’s often a very slow and gradual process that takes away central vision. You will more than likely be left with your peripheral sight. Perhaps that does not bring you much solace, but it could perhaps ease your thoughts a bit. Are you taking a supplement to stop the deterioration of your vision? Or perhaps injections? It is fantastic that you already know sign language. Could braille be helpful (potentially) for the future? Please feel free to vent here! This is more or less an open forum. Love to hear your thoughts.

      1. I do so appreciate someone replying to my vent. Thank you so very much. I will be back once I can get a better perspective. Your blog is in my bookmarks !!

        1. Hi Laura, I was glad to hear your ‘vent’! We’re certainly all entitled to describe how we feel. It can be cathartic during a time of change! Please do keep me updated on your progress/journey and I wish you the best of luck!

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