Stress can cause severe impacts on our health

Can Stress Cause Macular Edema?

Macular edema, which is a condition affecting the eyes, is commonly linked to mental stress. It is surprising to note that people who live a stressful hectic lifestyle are more prone to develop macular edema.

Stress is both consequence and cause of vision loss. This creates a vicious cycle of a downward spiral, in which initial vision loss creates stress which further accelerates vision loss.

Several research studies have revealed how poor emotional health marked by stress, anxiety, and depression can produce an adverse impact on the vision of a person resulting in a higher risk of developing macular edema. 

Hence, there is a need to understand how exactly mental stress affects eyesight and the most effective ways to avoid mental stress and prevent or treat macular edema. Read on to learn more about the impact of stress on the vision. 

Macular edema and stress: Overview           

Researchers have found that there is a strong connection between poor emotional health and the chances of developing macular edema. Stress can affect the eyesight in a similar way it affects the immune system or the respiratory system as these mechanisms involve inflammation and oxidative stress caused due to free radicals. 

Chronic stress can negatively affect blood circulation and impact the ability of the digestive system to break down and assimilate foods well. These effects of stress hamper the delivery of nutrients to the eyes putting a person at risk of vision loss due to macular edema or other eye diseases. 

Diabetic macular edema, with hard exudates surrounding the blood vessels.

Symptoms of the Impact of Stress on Macular Edema

Mental stress results in the higher production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is known to contribute to leakage and inflammation. The leakage may result in the build-up of fluids in the back of the eye resulting in macular edema. 

When Should You Get a Diagnosis?

The primary symptoms of macular edema include the blurring of vision near or at the center of the field of vision.

Moreover, colors may appear faded or washed out. If not detected and managed properly, macular edema may become worse resulting in progressive vision loss.

This marks the importance of regular eye check-ups. Regular visits to your ophthalmologist can help in the early detection of abnormal changes occurring in the eyes allowing you to seek timely medical intervention aimed at preventing vision loss. We covered here what causes diabetic macular edema too.

What Treatments Are Available for Macular Edema?     

The treatment of macular edema involves identifying and correcting the underlying cause, and the related leakage and swelling in the retina.

The different treatment options for patients with macular edema include:

Medication is key to control the effects of diabetes


Medications called anti-VEGF drugs can help to reduce the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the retina and decrease leakage from the blood vessels thus reducing edema. This medicine is administrated into the affected eye using a slender needle.

Steroid treatment

Macular edema caused due to inflammation is usually treated with oral or injectable steroidal medications. Eye drops containing steroids may also be used to reduce inflammation and swelling in the retina.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment involves the exposure of the tissues around the macula affected by the leakage of fluid to laser pulses. The goal of this therapy is to restore vision or prevent further vision loss by sealing off the leaking vessels.

Vitrectomy surgery

Macular edema caused due to the vitreous pulling on the macula may need surgical intervention. A surgical procedure called a vitrectomy can be performed to restore the normal shape of the macula.

Can Macular Edema Resolve Itself?

In rare cases, macular edema may resolve on its own without any active treatment. However, patients who have symptoms of macular edema are advised to visit an ophthalmologist regularly. If left untreated, it may cause irreversible vision loss and sometimes, blindness.

If detected, the ophthalmologist will be able to recommend appropriate treatments to manage the condition.

How Else Can Stress Impact Your Vision?

We know now the link between continued stress and cortisol. Poor quality of life, mental stress, and hectic lifestyle are associated with several other eye conditions as discussed below:

Central Serous Chorioretinopathy

It is a rare condition relatively common in patients with diabetes. Patients with central serous chorioretinopathy may present with a pseudohypopyon formed over the macula.


A stressful or traumatic experience in life can put a person at a risk of glaucoma. Research studies have revealed that patients with undiagnosed glaucoma often suffer from poor emotional health that is characterized by anxiety and depression.

This suggests that anxiety and depression may not always be linked to the patient’s knowledge of having glaucoma.

On the contrary, research studies have pointed that stress can be a cause of both acute closed-angle glaucoma as well as open-angle glaucoma.

Macular Degeneration

Research studies have revealed that patients diagnosed with macular degeneration usually experience severe stress and anxiety.

Some studies have suggested that patients with macular degeneration often notice their eyesight becoming worse during periods of stress. It is believed that these effects could be linked to the oxygen supply to the eyes.

When a person is stressed, he tends to breathe in a shallower manner. As a result, the body gets less oxygen due to which the oxygen supply to the retina is also reduced. The inadequate supply of oxygen indirectly caused due to stress is implicated to be the factor responsible for the worsening of vision.

There is also a close link between wet macular degeneration and inflammation both of which could be associated with stress.

Catarcts and other eye diseases can stem from stress


Mental stress due to any psychological reason can worsen the chances of developing alcohol dependence. Moreover, over-consumption of alcohol is one of the causes of cataracts. The intake of more than one alcoholic beverage a day is found to increase the risk of developing a cataract significantly.

This establishes the indirect link between stress, alcohol intake, and the risk of cataracts.

Feeling stressed would limit the supply of oxygen to the retina thus starving these cells of oxygen due to which the development and progress of cataracts may occur at a faster rate.

Central Serous Choroidopathy

Central Serous Choroidopathy is commonly linked to mental stress. Central Serous Choroidopathy usually affects young men having an aggressive “type A” personality.

The experience of feeling stressed out, working under pressure, and feeling overwhelmed are some characteristics associated with “type A” personalities. Patients with “type A” personalities often experience hypertension, weak immunity, and sleep issues, all of which can affect the body’s ability to cope with stress resulting in a higher risk of eye problems like Central Serous Choiroidopathy.

Asthenopia (tired eyes)

Researchers have found that mental stress is a common factor that can put young men and women at a risk of developing asthenopia.

Studies have also found that psychosocial factors could contribute to the risk of asthenopia or Computer Vision Syndrome, especially in people who have to work in front of a computer or laptop for several hours a day such as those working in call centers.

Dry Eyes

The analysis of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome and dry eye syndrome has revealed that hypertension, coupled with an inability to cope with a stressful life, usually expressed as anger and anxiety, can increase the chances of developing dry eye syndrome.

One research study has found that the use of antihypertensive drugs, especially by people with a type-A personality who are likely to experience mental stress, can also contribute to the risk of dry eye syndrome.

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The results of several studies have suggested that poor emotional health and mental stress can affect eyesight and contribute to the development of several eye diseases including macular edema. It is advisable to visit an ophthalmologist regularly to assess your eye health and adopt appropriate strategies to relieve mental stress.

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