End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) sufferers usually have vision problems, according to a study, published by the National Kidney Foundation. A surprising number of study participants were found to have significant visual impairment. Specifically, 96% had visual acuity levels less than age-expected values, 37% had poor contrast sensitivity and 31% failed their depth perception test.
Researchers expected that dialysis patients would have a high rate of visual impairment due to the large percentage of this population that suffers from diabetes and hypertension, two conditions that are strongly associated with visual loss. However, they did not anticipate the exceedingly high number with severe depth perception issues.
It is believed that dialysis itself does not cause retinal damage. Instead, the study finds that the high burden of toxins and harmful substances accumulated inside the blood vessels, and other diseases born by ESRD dialysis patients induce vision disturbances.
People do not always appreciate what the loss of vision means. For example, something as simple as understanding your monthly lab results, when you cannot see, can cause you to miss key information that you need to manage and control your disease. Also, impaired vision is strongly associated with accidental falls which are in turn related to death, hospitalization and long term institutional care. The degree to which the study participants suffer from vision damage, particularly depth perception problems, can have a major impact on the quality of their lives. Depth perception is necessary for basic activities, such as climbing stairs and avoiding obstacles when walking. Especially important for dialysis patients, loss of depth perception affects their ability to follow critical medication regimens.
Simple measures may help ease the burden of vision impairment such as using magnifying glasses, brighter lighting, large-print books, and having a good support network. In addition, if you have other underlying diseases such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, these should be treated as they can increase damage to your eyes. To better control these diseases maintain a healthy diet and moderate exercise; and take your medication as prescribed.
If you need more help, KidneyBuzz.com recommends that you have your Nephrologist refer you to an occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist. These professionals can help you get the tools and training you need to cope with reduced vision. Also, your Social Worker can identify local agencies which may offer services for people with vision loss.
We at KidneyBuzz.com understand it can be scary to learn that you have a vision problem which can get worse; therefore it is common to experience a range of emotions. If you feel very depressed you should discuss this condition with your healthcare team.
"Dialysis Treatment Clears the Blood, But Does it Cloud the Vision?" - Medscape.
"Patients on Dialysis May Have Vision Disturbance." - Kidney Disease Treatment.