Sight-threatening diseases such as AMD can cut into a patient’s mobility and independent living, thereby reducing their quality of life. In fact, even the threat of loss of mobility can severely elevate an individual’s level of anxiety and distress, especially for patients with intermediate AMD or geographic atrophy (GA), according to new research.

The study looked at 30 participants: five had no AMD, three had early AMD, seven had intermediate AMD and 15 had GA. Each patient was shown 18 point-of-view computer-based movies simulating walking through real-world scenarios and was asked to press a button with their dominant hand during scenes that they believed would cause them anxiety or concern in their day-to-day life. These videos portrayed scenarios involving stairs and situations with low lighting.

Researchers not only recorded their answers, but also measured the pressure with which they pressed the button and even accounted for individual strength by having them perform a number of test button pushes that a computer could use to calculate their mean pressure. They found the intermediate AMD and GA patients press the button more often, and their button-pushing pressure was more than four-fold greater compared with those with no or early AMD.

“The test highlights areas of specific concern,” according to the study. “Results should be useful in patient management and educating the public about the everyday effects of AMD.”

Taylor D, Smith N, Jones P, et al. Measuring dynamic levels of self-perceived anxiety and concern during simulated mobility tasks in people with non-neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Br J Ophthalmol. July 9, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].