Context: Age-related macular degeneration is a prevalent disease of aging that may cause irreversible vision loss, disability, and depression. The latter is rarely recognized or treated in ophthalmologic settings.
Objective: To determine whether problem-solving treatment can prevent depressive disorders in patients with recent vision loss.
Design: Randomized, controlled trial.
Setting: Outpatient ophthalmology offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Patients: Two hundred six patients aged 65 years or older with recent diagnoses of neovascular age-related macular degeneration in one eye and pre-existing age-related macular degeneration in the fellow eye.
Intervention: Patients were randomly assigned to problem-solving treatment (n = 105) or usual care (n = 101). Problem-solving treatment therapists delivered 6 sessions during 8 weeks in subjects' homes.
Main outcome measures: Outcomes were assessed at 2 months for short-term effects and 6 months for maintenance effects. These included DSM-IV-defined diagnoses of depressive disorders, National Eye Institute Vision Function Questionnaire-17 scores, and rates of relinquishing valued activities.
Results: The 2-month incidence rate of depressive disorders in problem-solving-treated subjects was significantly lower than controls (11.6% vs 23.2%, respectively; odds ratio, 0.39; 95% confidence interval, 0.17-0.92; P = .03). Problem-solving treatment also reduced the odds of relinquishing a valued activity (odds ratio, 0.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.25-0.96; P = .04). This effect mediated the relationship between treatment group and depression. By 6 months, most earlier observed benefits had diminished, though problem-solving treatment subjects were less likely to suffer persistent depression (chi2(1,3) = 8.46; P = .04).
Conclusions: Problem-solving treatment prevented depressive disorders and loss of valued activities in patients with age-related macular degeneration as a short-term treatment, but these benefits were not maintained over time. Booster or rescue treatments may be necessary to sustain problem-solving treatment's preventative effect. This study adds important new information to the emerging field of enhanced-care models to prevent or treat depression in older persons.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00042211.