Dementia linked to poor eye health in earlier life – but cataract surgery could cut risk
Nearly one million people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK – and that number is set to increase over the next few decades as the population ages.
By 2050, it is predicted that this figure will have jumped to 1.6 million.
The cost of dementia is expected to almost double in the same timeframe, from £25bn today to £47bn in 2050. The disease has a devastating impact on people’s lives, as well as their family and friends.
As their disease progresses, they will experience greater memory loss and changes to their personality and behaviour.
Ultimately, they will become completely dependent on others for their care.
Numerous studies have identified that certain condition such as obesity, depression, hypertension and diabetes are leading factors for dementia.
Studies investigating a possible relationship between vision impairment and dementia are inconsistent but a new study has shed some interesting light on this topic.
The research results indicate a possible link to eye health (or lack thereof) and an increased risk for dementia.
A latest review has found that older adults with untreated sight conditions may be at increased risk of dementia.
The study, which was published in the journal Ageing And Mental Health, reviewed 16 studies involving 76,373 participants and highlighted a need for further research to help examine how sight problems can impact older adults with dementia.
Interestingly, a previous study found those who have undergone a cataract operation have a “lower risk of developing dementia from any cause compared with those who did not”.
Researchers found that those who underwent cataract surgery had nearly 30% lower risk of developing dementia for at least 10 years after surgery compared to those who did not.
In the latest study visual impairment and brain health outcomes found included:
People with a sight problem had an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, regardless of whether their visual impairment was self-reported or diagnosed using objective measures.
The likelihood of having a cognitive impairment was 137% higher among people who had a sight problem compared to those who did not.
People who had a sight problem at baseline had a 41% increased risk of developing cognitive impairment and a 44% increased risk of dementia, compared with those who did not.
“This study is among the first to evaluate the association between sight problems and cognitive outcomes in older adults through a comprehensive examination of all available population-based studies in English,” says Associate Professor Beibei Xu, from the Medical Informatics Center at Peking University.
He added: “Although the reasons behind this remain unclear, it suggests that diagnosing and treating eye conditions may be beneficial – both to improve a person’s quality of life and also to potentially slow down or stop memory loss.”
“Finding ways to prevent or delay the onset of dementia could help reduce its devastating impact on the lives of affected individuals and their families, especially in light of the growing burden of the disease.”
He continued to stress the importance of having “regular eye examinations enabling any potential problems with vision to be spotted and treated early”.
Signs of dementia
According to the NHS, early dementia signs may include:
finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
Being confused about time and place