Eye Injection Anxiety: Smooth Sailing on a Sea of Agita
Last updated: October 2022
Doomscrolling is when you continue to read bad news even when you know it is not good for you. A lot of that went on at the height of the pandemic.
I've been spending a lot of time surfing the web and social media to understand what worries people most about their age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Pre-injection anxiety about anti-VEGF injections seems to be at or near the top of the list.
What have I found when it comes to managing anxiety? You can buy one of 741 books about anxiety on Amazon. Dozens, if not hundreds, of websites and blogs, will give you tips.
One of the things I have learned is that what we go through is something called situational anxiety. It is what happens in our mind that causes us to see things as worse than they typically are in a specific time, place, or event like before an appointment with my retinal specialist.
Sometimes even donning my magic shoes isn't enough for me to walk into an injection session as cool as a cucumber. I may be faking calm but underneath I’m a sea of agita.
Note: The word "agita" first appeared in American English in the early 1980s. It comes from a dialectical pronunciation of the Italian word "acido", meaning "heartburn" or "acid," from the Latin "acidus". Rather like, “You give me heartburn.
Managing anti-VEGF injection anxiety
Here are some tricks and tips from friends and all those websites:
1. Learn as much as you can about the injection procedure
The tests and scans. AMD in general and your diagnosis in particular.
2. Get prepared
I always ask how long the wait time is expected to be when I walk in the door. My agita used to go up the longer I had to wait. Now I have soothing music playing on my phone and I’ve even been known to nod off. Oh, and my doctor recommended an over-the-counter pain reliever before the visit just in case there was any post-injection pain. An ice pack is waiting at home.
3. Use a stress ball
One friend says she can practically nap during dental appointments as long as she has her squeegee. Another friend combines squeezing the ball with focusing on her breathing.
There is a lot of information about how breathing exercises are a pathway to calm. My routine? I breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 2, and breathe out for 4. Focus on the breathing and counting. Repeat. It helps. Really.
5. Bring a friend
Either in person (if you can) or at the other end of a cell phone. I’m an iPhone user so I’m ready to have Siri call my husband. I’m tempted to bring Waldo my plush Wombat but that might be going too far.
6. Cut back on caffeine
Tough for me because it gets me going in the morning.
7. Write down your questions
With all the stuff going on in an appointment, it is easy to forget my questions about the state of my eyesight. Holding on to the paper is also a good way to anchor me in the present moment. And that helps me keep from thinking about what could go wrong even if I know it is unlikely to happen.
8. Make it work for you and others
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our nervousness and fear. I’m challenging myself to talk with someone else in the waiting room at every visit. The man or woman at my elbow may be more frightened than me. Talking about my concerns may help lighten their anxiety about anti-VEGF injections.
Life is precious
One of the things you learn when you develop AMD is that life is precious. It is definitely too precious to spend it being worried and frazzled about anti-VEGF injections. Help is out there and here.
Which of the following stress reduction practices do you use before an appointment with your RS?
Do you have unanswered questions about dry macular degeneration?
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