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How Are Common Eye Diseases Related To Increased Risk Of Dementia?

According to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, some common eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetes-related eye disease (DRED) and cataracts can be independently linked to increased risk of dementia.

Dementia is a general term for memory loss and impaired ability of language, thinking, decision-making and problem-solving that may affect the day-to-day activities of a person. Alzheimer's is a common type of dementia.

In this article, we will discuss how common eye diseases can lead to an increased risk of memory loss or dementia. Take a look.

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How Are Common Eye Diseases And Dementia Linked?

According to the aforementioned study, vision problems such as AMD, DRED and cataracts could be one of the first symptoms of the development of dementia or cognitive impairment.

The risk of dementia is 61 per cent higher in individuals with diabetes-related eye conditions, 26 per cent higher for macular degeneration conditions and 11 per cent higher for people with cataracts, compared to individuals who do not have any eye conditions.

The risk of dementia extends in people who have both the conditions: eye diseases and systemic conditions like diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension and blood-related infection.

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People with two different eye diseases (like AMD and DRED together) are at higher risk of dementia compared to people with one eye condition.

Also, those who have two eye diseases along with two systemic conditions (like diabetes and obesity together) are three times at risk of dementia.

These findings say that people (especially middle-aged and older people) with any eye conditions and people with systemic conditions must opt for frequent screening of their conditions so that the risk of dementia can be prevented up to a certain extent. [1]

How Eye Diseases Cause Dementia

Some studies say that deposition of amyloid-beta was found in people with age-related macular degeneration, compared to those without the condition. Amyloid-beta is a protein that helps in the brain's neural growth and repair, however, with age, they break down and form plaques that disrupt the passage of signals between neurons and thus, cause memory loss. [2]

Another reason is, when there is an eye condition such as cataracts or diabetes-eye conditions, the sensory neurons that are responsible for receiving the visual information from the eyes and sending it to the brain, get less activated due to poor or no visual input. This increases the cognitive load and may cause damage to the brain structure, thus leading to the risk of dementia.

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Symptoms Of Dementia-Related Eye Diseases

Some of the significant changes noticed during dementia-related eye diseases i.e AMD, DRED and cataracts are: [3]

  • Blurred vision
  • Peripheral vision
  • Problems in object recognition
  • Problems to detect movement.
  • Reduced gaze
  • Trouble in reading
  • Poor adjustment to light
  • Poor colour discrimination.

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Some of the diagnostic methods to detect the risk of dementia in the eyes are:

  • Retinal imaging: It is a potential marker for memory loss. Retinal imaging includes high-resolution imaging methods like optical coherence tomography (OCT) and confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (SLO). These methods help get clear three-dimensional pictures of the back of the eyes and detect eye problems related to dementia. [4]
  • Laser Doppler imaging device: The device helps show the difference in blood flow in retinal veins of people with dementia and healthy adults. [5]
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans: It helps detect the deposition of amyloid-beta within the retinal tissues as an early sign of dementia. [6]

Treatment And Management

Experts say that there is no effective treatment method to stop or completely reduce the progression of dementia in people with eye conditions, however, by identifying the possible risk factors, the risk of dementia in them can be prevented to a certain extent. They include:

  • Losing weight
  • Managing diabetes and heart diseases properly with diet and exercise, if any.
  • With recommended vision correction methods or surgery, the vision can be corrected, and the risk of dementia can be delayed.
  • Medications to manage systemic conditions like diabetes and hypertension so that the risk of dementia can be lowered.
  • Regular screenings of the eyes for early diagnosis of dementia.

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To Conclude

Age-related eye conditions and dementia are common, however, when you have early onset of eye diseases, the risk of dementia may become high. If an eye disease is followed by certain systemic conditions like diabetes and heart diseases, the risk of dementia may also double.

Experts suggest that one should first reduce the risk of eye diseases, and in case it occurs, one should take measures to reduce the risk of diabetes or hypertension or other chronic diseases to delay or prevent dementia risk.

Can eyesight cause dementia?

Yes, certain eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration, diabetes-related eye diseases and cataracts can lead to an increased risk of dementia later in life. Also, if these conditions are followed by systemic conditions like diabetes or hypertension, the risk may get doubled.

Does macular cause dementia?

Age-related macular degeneration diseases may cause dementia, but the risk may not be high compared to macular and other diseases like diabetes. Also, macular and dementia are common in older people.

What are the three risk factors associated with dementia?

According to a study published in the journal British Journal of Ophthalmology, the three main risk factors associated with dementia are obesity, depression and hypertension, along with diabetes and stroke.