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Using evidence-based psychological approaches to accommodation anomalies

Horwood, A. ORCID: and Waite, P. ORCID: (2023) Using evidence-based psychological approaches to accommodation anomalies. Strabismus. ISSN 0927-3972

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09273972.2023.2171070


Introduction Accommodation anomalies are frequently caused or exacerbated by psychological problems such as anxiety. Patients share many features with those with other anxiety based somatic symptoms such as stomach-ache, palpitations and headaches. They can be difficult to treat, and the ophthalmic literature rarely goes beyond diagnosis and ocular treatment. This study reports characteristics and outcomes of a short case series of patients with accommodation spasms and weaknesses assessed objectively, and outlines a psychological approach to treatment Methods 23 patients (13 severe accommodative weakness or “paralysis”, 10 accommodative spasm) aged between 8-30 years of age, were referred to our laboratory after diagnosis by their referring clinician and exclusion of pathology or drug-related causes. Their accommodation and convergence were assessed objectively with a laboratory photorefractive method, as well as by conventional orthoptic testing and dynamic retinoscopy. All interactions with the patients used an evidence-based psychological approach, to give them insight into how stress and anxiety can cause or exacerbate eye symptoms and help them to break a vicious cycle of anxiety and risk of deterioration. Results 83% were female and 57% had previously diagnosed anxiety or dyslexia (with many more acknowledging being “worriers”). Inconsistency of responses was the rule and all showed normal responses at some time during their visit. Responses were poorly related to the visual stimuli presented and objective responses often differed from subjective. Dissociation between convergence and accommodation was more common, compared to our large, previously reported, control groups. No participant had true paralysis of accommodation. Responses often improved dramatically within one session after discussion and explanation of the strong relationship between anxiety and accommodative anomalies. None have returned for further advice or treatment. Conclusions Our approach explicitly addresses psychological factors in causing, or worsening, accommodation (and co-existing convergence) anomalies. Many of these patients do not realise that a certain amount of blur is normal in everyday life. Ocular symptoms are often a sign of anxiety, not the primary problem. By recognising this, patients can be helped to address the triggering issues and symptoms often subside or resolve spontaneously. Well-meaning professionals, offering only ocular treatments, can deflect attention away from the real cause and can unwittingly be making things worse.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:109713
Publisher:Taylor and Francis


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