News Releases

Nov. 16, 2007

Good Eyeglasses Key to Total Well-Being Says Emory Opthalmologists

(ATLANTA) A recent study reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology (November) states that elderly patients who received new eyeglasses not only had better vision and subsequent increased activity levels, but also had fewer depressive symptoms. Depression in the elderly is a common malady, particularly in those who are confined to nursing homes or with ongoing, debilitating illnesses.
The report states that nursing home residents have high rates of visual impairment—ranging from 3 to 15 times higher than corresponding rates for community-dwelling older adults. Access to eye exams is also a problem with these residents. Often, there is the perception that these older patients don’t really benefit from treatments to improve their vision because of cognitive problems or physical frailty, says the report. But the results of the report underscore the fact that these populations need access to eye care, whether at the nursing home itself via ophthalmologists who provide services in-house or by trips to the eye doctors.
The Alabama team studied 78 nursing home residents who received new glasses just one week after their eye exams. The other group, 64 residents, received their glasses eight weeks after their exams.
The two groups had very similar demographic and medical characteristics and similar visual acuities and refractive errors at the beginning of the study. At the end, after two months, the group that received their glasses first were markedly improved in visual scores and in psychological factors. The team’s report “Effect of Refractive Error Correction on Health-Related Quality of Life and Depression in Older Nursing Home Residents” shows that those older adults benefit from access to the most basic of eye care services.

Emory Eye Center’s Director of Comprehensive Ophthalmology John Kim says “We’ve always been aware that the ability to see well and the prospect of having a full and happy life are linked. This new study underscores the need for routine eye exams and providing for appropriate visual correction at any age.”
Additionally, certain populations who do not regularly have eye exams are at risk for eye diseases not being detected in time for optimal treatment. Macular degeneration and other retinal disorders, glaucoma, and certain cancers of the eye can best be treated early on, at a time when many don’t recognize the symptoms or the symptoms are “silent,” such as in glaucoma.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell
jbell@emory.edu
404-778-3711

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