Inter-relationship between visual symptoms, activity limitation and psychological functioning in patients with diabetic retinopathy

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Abstract

Aims

We explored the direct and indirect impact of restrictions in daily living activities on the relationship between perceived visual symptoms associated with diabetic retinopathy (DR) and psychological functioning.

Methods

In this prospective, cross-sectional study, 514 tertiary patients with DR (mean age±SD, 60.4±12.6 years; 64% male) answered questions related to nine domains of DR-specific quality of life. These were classified into the following predictor, mediating and outcome variables: visual symptoms (predictor variable); activity limitation, driving, lighting, social restriction, inconvenience, mobility (mediating variables); and emotional distress and concerns (outcome variables). Direct and indirect relationships between study variables were assessed using path analysis, using interval-level person measures derived from Rasch analyses of the study questionnaires.

Results

We found no direct effect of DR-related visual symptoms on emotional distress or concerns. Rather, the association between visual symptoms and emotional distress was mediated (all p<0.05) by mobility (indirect effect=0.07), inconvenience (indirect effect=0.28), activity limitation (indirect effect=0.13) and social restriction (indirect effect=0.11). Similarly, the relationship between DR-related visual symptoms and concerns was mediated by inconvenience (indirect effect=0.36) and social restriction (indirect effect=0.11). Lighting and driving did not have a mediating role.

Conclusions

The link between vision and psychological functioning outcomes such as emotional distress and concern is complex in patients with DR and mediated by limitations in daily living activities and social factors. Interventions to enhance daily functioning and social interaction may be effective in reducing emotional distress associated with DR-related vision impairment.

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