Purpose: To evaluate the effect of laser photocoagulation for diabetic macular oedema (DME) on patients' Vision Related Quality Of Life (VR-QOL) and to investigate associations between changes in self reported VR-QOL and changes in visual acuity following application of laser treatment.
Methods: Prospective cohort study of 55 subjects who underwent laser treatment for DME. Eligible patients with no history of previous laser photocoagulation self-administered the 51-item field-test version of the National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire (NEI-VFQ) prior to treatment and 3 months following the last session of laser application. Visual acuity was measured by means of the Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy (ETDRS) chart. Multi-item scales rating different aspects of VR-QOL were compared prior and after photocoagulation and the change in questionnaire's composite score following treatment was correlated to change in visual acuity and other determinants previously reported as risk factors in the diabetic population.
Results: Scale scores associated with general vision, near vision, distance vision, peripheral vision, vision-specific social functioning, vision-specific mental health, expectations for visual function and dependency due to vision were significantly improved following laser treatment. Multivariate models revealed that improvement of the NEI-VFQ composite score was significant in subjects younger than 65 years of age (p = 0.04) who received more laser burns (p = 0.02) and had worse vision-related QOL prior to laser treatment as expressed by the baseline NEI- VFQ composite score (p = 0.03). There was no statistically significant association between change in the composite score following laser treatment and stage of diabetic retinopathy, duration of diabetes or laser settings used during photocoagulation.
Conclusions: Photocoagulation for DME has a beneficial effect on patients' subjective perception of visual function. The use of vision-targeted health status questionnaires in conjunction with the clinical examination appears to provide a more comprehensive overview of individuals' daily well- being following laser treatment.