Coping with Macular Degeneration 

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published January 11, 2021

Around 40 percent of people diagnosed with macular degeneration suffer from depression.

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a progressive eye disease that develops when the macula, or center of the retina, begins to deteriorate.

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults over the age of 50. 

In its initial stages, AMD causes blurry or cloudy vision and dark “blind” spots in the central visual field. As the disease progresses, the blind spots grow larger, and eventually lead to a total loss of central vision.

How does AMD affect emotional well being?

If you have been diagnosed with AMD, you may be experiencing feelings of sadness, helplessness and depression. This is not only normal, but quite common among people with AMD.  

Macular degeneration can rob you of your independence, cause feelings of anxiety about leaving your home, and eventually lead to social isolation and depression.

Vision loss and depression 

While some people with AMD have an easier time adjusting to their “new normal” and experience just a short period of sadness as they grieve their vision loss, others experience longer periods of depression.

Social isolation can be a major risk factor for depression, especially when your ability to drive, shop, and participate in the activities you enjoy, are all affected.

Unfortunately, not only can your vision impairment cause feelings of self isolation, but feeling depressed can actually prevent you from going out and enjoying your daily activities. 

How do I know if I have depression?

If you or someone you know is showing signs of depression, seek help as soon as possible. 

Depression can be treated, and you can regain a sense of happiness and meaning in life.

Common signs of depression include:

  • Frequent negative thoughts
  • Increased pessimism
  • Persistent sadness
  • Social withdrawal
  • A decrease in energy
  • Frequent episodes of crying
  • Apathy
  • Talking or moving slowly
  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits

Coping with AMD 

Low vision aids 

If you have been diagnosed with AMD, your eye doctor or low vision specialist may recommend purchasing a low vision device. A large variety of low vision devices are now available to help maximize your vision and increase independence for daily activities.

A low vision device can help you to live your life with greater independence and allow you to participate in social gatherings and other activities you enjoy. 

Low vision rehabilitation programs

Your eye doctor may also recommend joining an integrated low vision rehabilitation program which addresses psychosocial functioning and can prevent and treat depression related to vision loss.

A rehabilitation program to treat depression typically involves a multi-disciplinary approach, generally including low vision eye doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and occupational therapists, who are trained in helping patients with AMD.

With a low vision rehabilitation program, you will learn to use your low vision device, as well as practical skills to help you manage your condition and enhance your quality of life. 

Support groups

Social-emotional support groups can provide strength and encouragement as you adapt to your new lifestyle. Consider joining an AMD support group to diminish the sense of isolation you may be experiencing, and give you something to look forward to each week.

If you have low vision and think you may be depressed, don’t hesitate to speak with your eye doctor. 

Your eye doctor deals with many patients coping with vision loss and depression and can help you to treat your depression and regain your quality of life.