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Vision Problems Linked to Higher Dementia Risk

Vision problems linked to higher dementia risk

A report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 11, 2010.

A new study suggests that elderly adults with poor vision, particularly untreated vision problems, may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those with better vision.

Researchers found that in a sample of 625 elderly Americans with initially normal cognition, those who considered that they had poor vision despite some of them wearing corrective prescription lenses were more likely to develop dementia over the next 8.5 years.

When the researchers looked at the effects of treatment, they found that the highest odds of dementia were among people with poor vision left untreated. The risk was lower when they received some form of eye care.

During the study period, 168 participants developed Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Of those developed loss of cognitive function (men and women), less than 10 percent had rated their vision as "excellent" at the start of the study. That compared with almost 31 percent of participants who maintained normal brain function over the study period.

The research however does not prove that vision problems contribute to dementia, or for that matter that eye care can help slow cognitive decline but the findings point to the possibility that this could indeed be the case according to lead researcher Dr. Mary A.M. Rogers, a research assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The current findings, Rogers said, show that vision problems may precede a dementia diagnosis by years. "If you have poor vision, don't sit on it. Go and see your doctor," she said. It's best, Rogers added, to see an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who can diagnose the range of problems common in elderly adults, such as cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes-related retinopathy.
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The findings are based on 625 older U.S. adults who were part of a larger health study begun in 1992.

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