Effective communication from doctors could reduce anxiety for wet AMD patients

GP talking to male patient

A new study has revealed high levels of undiagnosed depression and anxiety among patients undergoing treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The research was conducted at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. It involved 300 patients receiving anti-VEGF treatment for wet AMD completing standardised questionnaires to quantify clinically significant levels of anxiety and depression.

Manchester researchers say that the study findings demonstrate the value of human interaction between clinician and patient in offering reassurance around the efficacy and safety associated with anti-VEGF injections. The main sources of anxiety were fear of going blind from the injections and concerns about treatment effectiveness, rather than trepidation around pain.

Dr Tariq Aslam, Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology at the University of Manchester, Consultant Ophthalmologist, at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT), and lead author of the study, said: “There have been amazing scientific achievements in diagnosing and treating serious eye diseases, such as AMD, which have revolutionised our ability to reverse life-changing vision loss.

"However, we must not forget the human element when applying all this to ensure all our patients can reap the full benefits of this cutting-edge science." 

The research found that 17% of patients showed clinically significant levels of anxiety and 12% had clinical levels of depression, with 56% of patients reporting anxiety related to anti-VEGF treatment. The study also found that 89% of patients who showed anxiety, and 91% who showed depression were not receiving appropriate psychological and psychiatric treatment.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “This report is very welcome although it is shocking that there is such a high level of anxiety and untreated depression in patients with macular degeneration. We know that this is a devastating condition even for those who can be treated. People are extremely afraid of sight loss and emotional support at the time of diagnosis and after is vital.

"Macular degeneration is increasing as we live longer so this problem must be addressed. We understand the NHS is under huge pressure and we are here to help with our free advice line and counselling service. We urge patients and eye care professionals to use these services to help alleviate patients' distress."

This study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). It was also funded by a grant from Bayer, in order to support the ophthalmology community in transforming care and supporting people living with retinal conditions.