Persistent psychological stress which is widely recognised as a consequence of vision loss is also a major contributor to its development and progression, a new study has warned. The study, published in the EPMA Journal, is based on a comprehensive analysis of hundreds of published research and clinical reports on the relationship of stress and ophthalmologic diseases.
“Continuous stress and elevated cortisol levels negatively impact the eye and brain due to autonomic nervous system (sympathetic) imbalance and vascular deregulation,” said lead author Bernhard Sabel from the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg in Germany.
The research team also found that increased intraocular pressure, endothelial dysfunction (flammer syndrome) and inflammation are some of the consequences of stress causing further damage. The study recommends improving the clinician-patient relationship and provide stress-reduction treatments and psychological counselling to interrupt the vicious cycle of stress and progressive vision loss.
Adjunct therapies like brain stimulation, relaxation response, vision restoration, anxiety management and social support counteract stress and induce a relaxation response by rebalancing the autonomic system of reducing sympathetic and activating parasympathetic activity, the researchers said.
They have been used successfully in tandem with therapies to increase blood flow to the eye, thereby opening the window of opportunity for vision restoration, the researchers added. According to the researchers, this approach can be used more widely in the clinical management of eye diseases.
Stress reduction and relaxation techniques such as meditation, autogenic training, stress management training and psychotherapy to learn to cope should be recommended not only as complementary to traditional treatments of vision loss, but possibly as preventive measures to reduce progression of vision loss, the researchers noted.
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