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29 November 2007
Good Eyeglasses Key to Total Well-Being, Says Ophthalmologist
Elderly patients who receive new eyeglasses not only have better vision and subsequent increased activity levels, but also have fewer symptoms of depression, according to a new report.

Depression in the elderly is a common problem, particularly in those who are confined to nursing homes or with ongoing, debilitating illnesses.

Commenting on the recent study, 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."

The report, in this month's Archives of Ophthalmology, shows that nursing home residents have high rates of visual impairment - ranging from three 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 was markedly improved in visual scores and in psychological factors.

The report showed that those older adults benefit from access to the most basic of eye care services. Additionally, certain populations that 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.

About Emory Eye Center

The Department of Ophthalmology and Emory Eye Center have a mission to conduct pioneering research into blinding eye diseases, to educate and train eye professionals, and to provide excellent patient care. The Department includes 23 ophthalmologists, five optometrists, nine basic scientists, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and nine researchers in other Emory departments who hold joint appointments in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Ophthalmology research is supported by $6 million in NIH funding. The Department has remained in the top rankings by U.S. News & World Report for the 11 years the magazine has held a ranking for Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology Times, a news publication written by and for physicians, regularly ranks the Department as one of the top 10 eye centers in the country in the categories of best overall programs, best residency programs, best clinical programs, and best research programs.

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