Mental Stress Can Cause Vision Loss

There are more than a few potential health consequences of high stress. High blood pressure and depression are just two, but now researchers think that stress might also hurt your vision.

A new report found that ongoing psychological stress, and the raised levels of stress hormone cortisol that comes with it, is a risk factor in the development and progression of deteriorating vision.

Simply learning how to relax through talk therapy and meditation might be the best protection against deteriorating vision, according to the paper published in the journal of the European Association for Predictive, Preventive, and Personalized Medicine.

"There is clear evidence of a psychosomatic component to vision loss, as stress is an important cause, not just a consequence, of progressive vision loss resulting from diseases such as glaucoma, optic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration," said lead investigator for the study Bernhard Sabel, Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Magdeburg University in Germany.

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Optometrist checks a man's eyes. A new report shows that mental stress might cause vision loss. Getty Images

Sabel and a team of researchers found that prolonged mental stress might lead to vision loss. According to their findings, the stress hormone cortisol can actually damage the eye and brain and disrupt blood flow in these parts of the body.

They believe that stress may be one of the major causes of eye diseases, like glaucoma, a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness.

With this in mind, they say it is important for eye doctors to incorporate stress-reduction into their treatment plans. They should also take care to not cause more stress to their patients while giving them a diagnosis, a coinvestigator on the study, Dr. Muneeb Faiq at the New York University School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology, said in a statement.

"The behavior and words of the treating physician can have far-reaching consequences for the prognosis of vision loss. Many patients are told that the prognosis is poor and that they should be prepared to become blind one day.

"Even when this is far from certainty and full blindness almost never occurs, the ensuing fear and anxiety are a neurological and psychological double-burden with physiological consequences that often worsen the disease condition," he said.