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Professional Arena

 

The silent plague: Glaucoma and depression

Quality of life is key to a person’s wellbeing – their ability to lead a fulfilled and contented life. From physical to mental wellbeing, social functioning to independence, the markers of quality of life may differ between countries, but vision is consistently listed as one of the core drivers of quality of life.

But what happens when that sight is compromised because of glaucoma? 

In a recent study on glaucoma and depression, Dr Ivan Goldberg and Dr Simon Skalicky confirmed that factors such as progressive peripheral field loss, impaired visual function, and multiple treatments may contribute to depression – which in turn can affect a glaucoma patient’s quality of life.

“We were some of the first to prove the link between depression and glaucoma – but it’s not that surprising, considering that depression is linked with many chronic diseases,” explains Dr Skalicky, who is also President of Glaucoma Australia.

Being diagnosed with glaucoma can be incredibly difficult. Loss of sight and having to deal with a change in lifestyle can be isolating and impact on a person’s happiness, while having to consistently go through clinical appointments and occasionally treatments can be tiring and overwhelming. In particular, the risk of depression seems to increase as people grow older and as their vision gets worse.

“It’s not only depression but also anxiety – there are a lot of unspoken fears out there about glaucoma. A lot of that comes down to knowledge, and to past experiences with glaucoma,” shares Dr Skalicky. “For example, someone might be scared as they watched their mother go blind because of glaucoma – but today because they’ve been diagnosed early and treatments have improved since then, they will likely hold onto their vision.

“We can work against that fear and loneliness by improving people’s understanding of what glaucoma is and how we can treat it. That’s where organisations like Glaucoma New Zealand come in – they can provide a lot of psychological support, information and encouragement.” 

 
Ways to improve quality of life and reduce your risk of depression:

 

  • Keep on top of treatment to prevent any further sight loss
  • Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and decide on a plan of action (whether that’s medication, therapy, or otherwise)
  • Stay socially active – spend time with friends and family
  • Knowledge is power – so get educated about glaucoma
  • Connect with other people who have glaucoma (such as through Glaucoma New Zealand’s support groups) so you know you’re not alone  

 

At Glaucoma New Zealand, we’re passionate about saving sight because we know that retaining sight is key to retaining independence. Our goal is to connect you with a community, social services, and information that enable you to maintain your quality of life – so please, get in touch if you’re feeling at all isolated or anxious. Call us on freephone 0800 452 826 or email at info@glaucoma.org.nz. 

Alternatively, there are other great organisations specialising in mental health who provide support for all New Zealanders. The Mental Health Foundation provide resources and support for a range of mental health issues, and depression.org.nz work to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety.

Wanting to speak to someone? Lifeline  (0800 54 33 54) and Samaritans  (0800 726 666) are both 24/7 support services.  


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