Eye Health

13 November 2007

Specs give gran new lease on life

Giving eyeglasses to nursing home residents in need of vision correction improves their quality of life and reduces depression, a new study shows.

Giving eyeglasses to nursing home residents in need of vision correction improves their quality of life and reduces depression, a new study shows.

"This study demonstrates that older adults residing in nursing homes can personally benefit from access to the most basic of eye care services," Dr Cynthia Owsley of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and her colleagues conclude. However, the researchers point out in the Archives of Ophthalmology, that these services are often unavailable.

Don't get care they need
Visual impairment may be up to 15 times more common among nursing home residents compared to the general population, Owsley and her team note. But nursing home residents frequently don't get the vision care they need, the researchers add; only a small fraction of nursing homes have eye care services on-site, while half of residents in facilities that do have vision care services available have not received them.

To investigate whether fitting visually impaired nursing home residents with spectacles might improve their quality of life, the researchers randomly assigned 142 individuals to receive vision correction immediately or to receive eyeglasses two months later. All had refractive errors, which include nearsightedness and farsightedness, and can generally be corrected with eyeglasses.

More quality of life
After two months, people who had their vision corrected immediately scored higher in many areas of quality of life, including more participation in activities and hobbies; less difficulty reading; less psychological distress; and more social interaction compared to the delayed treatment group. They also had fewer depressive symptoms.

Family members and health care providers may feel that nursing home residents with cognitive impairment, as well as those who are physically frail, don't need vision correction, the researchers note. But these findings show that correcting even mild refractive errors can be helpful to nursing home residents, they add.

"These findings underscore the need for a systematic evaluation of the factors underlying the pervasive unavailability of eye care to nursing home residents in the United States so that steps can be taken to improve service delivery and eye care utilization," the researchers conclude. - (Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, November 2007.

Read more:
Eyesight and eye care basics


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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