Psychological Effects of Eye Diseases: A Tertiary Eye Center Study
Author(s): Michael C Okosa, Richard Uwakwe, Akunne I Apakama, Arinze A Onwuegbuna, Chukwudi C Uzozie, Miriam-Benigna C Amobi, Chinwe A Uzuke
Aim: To elucidate the psychological effects of eye diseases on ophthalmic patients seen in a tertiary eye hospital in order to help eyecare professionals develop policies and counselling programs to support the mental health and care of the patients.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional descri-ptive study on ophthalmic patients in a tertiary eye centre using a pretested interviewer-administered, semi-structured questionnaire. Information sought included sociodemographic, knowledge of eye diseases, fears concerning eye disease, emotional reaction to the current ocular illness and the effect of ocular health status on their quality of life. Detailed ocular examination was done. Data obtained was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23 software.
Results: A total of 243 patients were interviewed and examined. There were 111(45.7%) males and 132(54.3%) females. Age range was 16 to 90 years (Mean age of 44.2 ± 18.1 years). Defective vision 127(52.3%) and ocular pain/discomfort 113(46.5%) were the commonest presenting symptoms; while ocular surface diseases 83(34.2%) and ametropia 55(22.6%) were the commonest diagnosis recorded. Forty (16.5%) patients were blind (presenting visual acuity <3/60). Fear of the loss of sight 103(42.4%), future implications of current eye disease 47(19.3%) and inability to meet financial cost involved in care 24(9.9%) were the commonest nature of fear noted. Fears of current illness was significantly associated with blindness (P=0.005), and specific diagnoses like cataract and glaucoma (P=0.001) Respondents’ emotional reactions to their eye disease were anxiety 112(46.1%), depression 63(25.9%), anger at God or someone 21(8.6%), and no emotions 47(19.3%). None reported happiness with occurrence of their eye disease. These emotional reactions caused insomnia, anorexia, and loss of concentration in one-third of the patients. Family history of blindness was significantly associated with manifestations of insomnia, anorexia, and loss of concentration (P=0.013).
Conclusion: Eye diseases are significantly associated with anxiety and depression. This is with regards to the current ocular illness and future life. Awareness of these among eyecare professionals is important to give the much-needed mental health support and care to these patients in collaboration with and referrals to mental health professionals.