Rates of neuropsychiatric, cardiometabolic and musculoskeletal diseases were higher among the VI population.  Photo: Getty Images.

Across their lifespan, adults living with vision impairment (VI) have a significantly higher longitudinal chance of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, cardiometabolic diseases and musculoskeletal comorbidities.

The retrospective study, based at the University of Michigan, included 24,657 adults with VI and age- and sex-matched controls. Researchers analyzed data not only for adults 65 and over (n=17,179), but also for adults 18 to 64 years old (7,478). Low vision and blindness were determined by ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnosis codes. Physician-diagnosed incident neuropsychiatric, musculoskeletal and cardiometabolic diseases were also identified using ICD codes.

In individuals with VI aged 18 to 64, the adjusted hazard of neuropsychiatric (hazard ratio (HR)=2.1), musculoskeletal (HR=1.8) and cardiometabolic (HR=1.8) diseases was significantly greater than in matched controls. Similar associations were observed between patients with VI 65 and older for neuropsychiatric (HR=2.4), musculoskeletal (HR=1.8) and cardiometabolic (HR=1.7) diseases.

The researchers did note that their cohort included adults with and without VI who had private health insurance in the United States. “It could be possible that individuals with private insurance might represent a higher functioning or healthier population with VI; thus, future research in population-representative samples is needed,” they wrote in their paper.

Still, the team believes further research should primarily elucidate the underlying mediators, risk factors and temporal sequence of these secondary complications in adults with VI. It could help define the pathways, if any, that account for the association between VI and other health conditions and evaluate whether vision preserving and improving interventions may prevent non-visual chronic diseases.

Kolli A, Seiler K, Kamdar N, et al. Longitudinal associations between vision impairment and the incidence of neuropsychiatric, musculoskeletal and cardiometabolic chronic diseases. Am J Ophthalmol. September 21, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].