Ophthalmologists at Moorfields warn that the impact of persistent levels of high stress on vision is often overlooked by physicians.
20 December 2019, Dubai, UAE Specialists at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai have called for greater awareness of the link between persistent levels of psychological stress and vision problems.
When individuals feel anxious or scared, the body releases certain stress hormones that can impact the brain and eyes. While many of the symptoms on vision are mild, including blurred vision, dry eyes, and eye twitching, Moorfields experts warn of potentially more serious consequences if stress is allowed to persist, such as central serous retinopathy and hysterical amblyopia, a syndrome that can lead to severe loss of vision.
According to Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, the link between stress and visual impairment is often misunderstood, raising the potential of serious conditions that could have been treated at an early stage.
Dr. Miguel Morcillo, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Specialist in Cornea and Refractive Surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, said: “So many of us are exposed to stress in our daily lives to the extent that it is almost considered normal to feel stressed. But the implications on vision can be serious and are frequently overlooked by physicians. While the symptoms of stress are mostly mild, if allowed to persist they can lead to significant problems.
“Ophthalmologists at Moorfields have to rule out any real eye problem, no matter the type of test required. But sometimes chronic and persistent stress is the cause. In certain cases, the patient must be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist for a mental health approach. We are calling for greater awareness of this issue among members of the public and general physicians.”
When under stress, the body’s natural response is to produce cortisol, which in turn affects the sympathetic nervous system, causing vascular miss-function, vasospasm, brain processing problems or inflammation. As the eye and brain are sensitive to vascular changes, any imbalance can affect their normal function. Adrenaline is also increased during stress, which can lead to increased eye pressure, resulting in blurred vision.
According to ophthalmologists, eye twitching (known as myokimia) is a common complain among highly-stressed patients. These involuntary contractions of muscular fibres around the eye are intermittent throughout the day and usually disappear after few days.
Chronic stress may also cause dry eyes. Stress hormones increase blood flow in body areas such as muscles and the heart. As a result, the production of tears is limited and dry eye symptoms may appear, especially if the patient is exposed to screens for an extended period of time.
Dr. Ammar Safar, Consultant Vitreoretinal surgeon and Medical Director of Moorfields Eye Hospitals in the UAE said: Central serous retinopathy or CSR is a condition that affects younger individuals who are under high levels of stress and results in blurring and distortion of the central vision due to accumulation of fluid under the central retina. This is common in young professionals undergoing very stressful periods and luckily resolves on its own in most people.
In extreme cases, hysterical amblyopia may appear, which can result in severe loss of vision, particularly decreased near and distance vision, reduced binocular vision and a mild hypermetropic shift. In these cases vision is not improved with the use of corrective lenses.
When chronic stress leads to a psychological conflict, physical symptoms commonly appear, including low vision or restricted visual field in one or both eyes. Moorfields advises that such patients seek a complete visual exploration, including various tests to rule out physical conditions, in addition to psychiatric treatment.