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Macular Degeneration: Vision Loss and Mental Health

By Preeti Subramanian, PhD, BrightFocus Foundation

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
Senior bearded man wearing glasses while outdoors in forest.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to reflect on how we can better support our emotional well-being.  Coping with vision loss personally or caring for a loved one experiencing this can be challenging.  

Learn more about how macular degeneration can impact your mental health—and what you can do to protect your headspace.   

Does Macular Degeneration Cause Depression?

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss and irreversible blindness in Americans aged 60 years and older. When aging damages the central area of the retina (macula) and blurs central vision, that is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A person with AMD loses the sharp, fine detail, “straight-ahead” vision required for reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 4 adults with vision loss have reported anxiety or depression. Older adults with chronic health conditions that impact their ability to perform daily tasks are also at increased risk for depression. Together, these factors can make older people with vision challenges more vulnerable to mental health conditions.  

Studies show that those with AMD are at greater risk for depression, even when compared to other eye diseases. The approval of new medications for AMD has improved quality of life and emotional well-being for many. However, for many others, coping with the daily challenges of AMD can remain arduous.  

AMD-related mental health struggles stem from many places. A person with AMD can feel anxiety and grief after receiving their diagnosis and as they begin to experience vision loss. AMD also often causes fundamental shifts in one’s lifestyle. Those with AMD must navigate sharing their diagnosis with family, friends, and coworkers. Moreover, tasks that used to be easy may become difficult, and they may have to adapt their daily routines to accommodate vision challenges. Such experiences can leave a person feeling isolated in their journey if they do not have a strong network of people who also have AMD.      

Further, financial upkeep for managing AMD may become burdensome, especially for those whose jobs are affected by their diagnosis. Healthcare costs for AMD treatment, even with insurance, can quickly pile up and create stress. Several resources are available to support those struggling with the cost of AMD care.   

How to Support Your Mental Health with Macular Degeneration 

The linking of mental health and macular degeneration highlights the significance of taking a comprehensive approach that considers both mental and physical well-being.    

Here are some steps that you can take to make your health a priority, both physically and mentally:  

  • Learn about strategies and resources to help you take charge of your vision and eye health and make the most of your remaining vision.  

  • Low vision therapy can help individuals cope with depression and anxiety that can come with vision loss. Low-vision therapists are trained professionals who can help people with low vision to maximize their remaining vision and learn how to perform daily activities more effectively. They can provide personalized training and tools that can help people live more independently and improve their quality of life.

  • Add more physical activity to your day. It can not only lower your risk of developing health problems but also boost your mood and reduce stress.  

  • Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can positively impact overall health and well-being.  

  • Don’t forget your vitamins! Several studies have shown that taking vitamin and mineral supplements can support vision health and slow the progression of AMD.  

  • Consider joining others in the AMD community to learn more about the disease, share experiences and tips, and get the support you need when you need it  

Seek mental health counseling for help with your vision loss diagnosis. Ask your doctor for a referral to a counselor who understands your situation and can provide additional coping strategies. Further, a recent randomized clinical trial found an integrated mental health and low vision care to reduce depression by 50% in patients with AMD compared to low vision intervention alone.

BrightFocus Foundation hosts a monthly AMD Community Circle where you can find community and strength in your journey.  Hear from community member Dr. Ralph Gohring on his top tips for coping with macular degeneration

Macular Degeneration Caregiving

Caregivers and loved ones can provide essential support to those living with AMD through several means. They may help reduce the mental load by maintaining healthcare information records, assisting with daily AMD management, and acting as a part of a support network. For more caregiving information, visit our Caregiving for Macular Degeneration page.   


Today and every day, take time to support your mental health. Seek out support groups, lean on your network of friends and family, and remember that your well-being matters. You are not alone in your journey with macular degeneration. 


Additional resources  

About the Author

Preeti Subramanian, PhD

Preeti Subramanian, PhD

Director of Vision Science Programs, BrightFocus Foundation

About BrightFocus Foundation    

BrightFocus Foundation is a premier global nonprofit funder of research to defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Through its flagship research programs — Alzheimer’s Disease Research, National Glaucoma Research, and Macular Degeneration Research — the Foundation has awarded nearly $290 million in groundbreaking research funding over the past 50 years and shares the latest research findings, expert information, and resources to empower the millions impacted by these devastating diseases. Learn more at   


The information provided in this section is a public service of BrightFocus Foundation, should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we make efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research.        

Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. 

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