Poor Vision Leads to Physical, Cognitive Problems in Older Adults, Finds Study

Eyes are one’s windows to the world. But as the person ages, there may be serious vision problems that can damage his or her eyesight permanently. After 60, people need to be more cautious about the warning signs of age-related vision problems that may lead to severe damage to the eyes. According to a 2016 study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), vision issue can have serious impact on the physical and cognitive abilities of older adults.

Of the nearly 300 million visually impaired people in the world, 65 percent are 50 years and above, observed a 2014 report by the World Health Organization (WHO). In most of these cases, the causes of impairment were recorded to be age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma (eye diseases that causes damage to optic nerve).

Link between vision and decline in health

In the AGS study, the researchers showed a possible link between age-related vision impairment and progressive physical and cognitive decline in older adults. The researchers interviewed 2,394 adults aged between 77 and 101 every 18 months between 2003 and 2012. The participants were questioned about their physical activities, cognitive involvement such as reading, writing, solving crosswords, and social engagement. During the interview, they were asked to rate their visual impairment on a scale including options like “no impairment,” “mild impairment,” or “severe or profound impairment.”

While the participants initially did not report any visual impairment, the problem was found to increase over time. The researchers also noticed a subsequent decline in the physical and mental activities of the participants. While the participants faced difficulties in conducting physical activities like cycling, long walks, gymnastics, and gardening, their poor vision also affected their crossword puzzle solving and reading skills. Hence, when the vision in older adults declines sharply, it has an adverse impact on their physical and mental well-being, said the researchers. “Since most vision loss is preventable, strategies to postpone vision loss might also help delay physical and mental decline among older adults,” they added.

Vision impairment leads to anxiety and depression

According to the researchers, while poor vision affects the physical activities, it also disrupts the mental ability to a great extent. Visual impairment can lead to the following mental disorders:

Depression: Studies have shown that vision loss is a substantial predictor of depression. A number of elderly people may develop depression while waiting for cataract surgery (which is commonly suggested to older people to rectify their vision). Additionally, the emotional and psychological distress associated with the surgery can also add to the developing depression.

Anxiety: Vision loss in older patients can lead to anxiety, which can further prevent them from taking care of themselves. Additionally, poor eyesight increases the chances of patients to isolate themselves from the social set up, apart from increasing their tendency to fall and suffer from medical errors. Moreover, a progressive vision loss might lead to hallucinations, which further contributes to anxiety.

Road to recovery

Age-related poor vision is a preventable condition. Therefore, taking measures such as eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercises and following a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing mental illness due to poor eyesight. However, if an older adult is suffering from a mental disorder, irrespective of the cause, it is important to seek immediate medical treatment as it can lead to substance abuse or may aggravate.

If you or your loved one is battling mental illness, contact the Recover Mental Health to know about the best mental health treatment centers in your vicinity. Recover Mental Health is a resource center dedicated to providing information on everything related to mental health and substance abuse. With over 21,000 listings in our directory, we provide quick and easy access to treatment centers across the U.S. and Canada. Call at our 24/7 helpline 866–593–2339 for information on mental health treatments or substance abuse rehab centers.