The Early symptom of dementia identified in new study

Early symptom of dementia
Image taken by Jeremy Wong

The Link Between Vision Difficulties and Dementia Risk

A recent study has looked at the link between people who have vision difficulties and those who go on to develop dementia

As we age, the fear of losing our vision and cognitive abilities looms large. Recent research has suggested a potential connection between vision issues and the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. In a study conducted by the Kellogg Eye Centre at Michigan Medicine, it was found that individuals with eyesight difficulties, even when wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses, had a higher risk of developing dementia.

The study involved over 3,000 older individuals, with an average age of 77, who participated in vision and cognitive tests during home visits. These tests assessed up-close and distant vision, as well as the ability to perceive letters that didn’t sharply contrast with their backdrop. Additionally, memory and reasoning tests were conducted, and medical information, including previous diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, was collected.

The results of the study revealed a significant association between vision impairments and dementia risk. One-third of individuals with moderate or severe distant vision impairment, including blindness, exhibited dementia symptoms. Similarly, 26% of those who had difficulty seeing letters that didn’t stand out against a backdrop showed signs of dementia. Even individuals with minor issues with distant vision had a 19% chance of developing dementia.


Read:How To Spot The Early Signs Of Dementia


The Impact of Vision Impairment on Dementia Risk

The study found that individuals with moderate to severe distant vision impairment were 72% more likely to develop dementia compared to those without vision problems. Other types of visual impairments also showed significant gaps in dementia risk, except for minor issues with distance vision, which didn’t exhibit a statistical difference.

Furthermore, individuals with multiple types of vision impairments had a 35% higher likelihood of developing dementia than those without any sight issues. These findings expand on previous research, which relied on self-reported visual abilities rather than objective testing or representative samples of the population.

The study’s authors emphasized the importance of prioritizing vision health to optimize both sight and overall well-being. They suggest that randomized trials should be conducted to determine whether optimizing vision can slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia. Sheila West, a researcher from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine, also highlighted the growing evidence linking vision and cognitive issues. She emphasized the need for equitable access to vision care services that can prevent or reverse the progression of sight loss, regardless of its potential impact on dementia.

early symptom of dementia
Image taken by Danie Franco

In the study, the authors said: “Prioritising vision health may be key to optimising both sight and overall health and well-being. Randomised trials are warranted to determine whether optimising vision is a viable strategy to slow cognitive decline and reduce dementia risk.”

The findings of this study underscore the significance of vision care in maintaining cognitive health. It highlights the need for regular vision check-ups, especially among older individuals who may be at higher risk of developing dementia. By detecting and addressing vision difficulties early on, it may be possible to mitigate the risk of cognitive decline.

Sheila West, PhD of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the new study adds to growing evidence about the link between vision and cognitive issues. She wrote: “Equitable access to vision care services that prevent, reverse, or at least stave off progression of loss of sight is a worthy goal regardless of the potential impact on dementia and may be especially critical for those experiencing cognitive decline.”

Maintaining good vision health is crucial for overall well-being, including cognitive function. Here are some strategies that can help promote optimal vision health:

  • Regular Eye Exams: Schedule regular eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to identify any potential vision issues and address them promptly.
  • Wear Corrective Eyewear: If prescribed, wear glasses or contact lenses as recommended by your eye care professional to ensure clear vision.
  • Protect Your Eyes: Wear sunglasses with UV protection outdoors and safety goggles when engaging in activities that pose a risk to your eyes.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper hydration to support overall eye health.
  • Manage Chronic Conditions: Take steps to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, as they can impact vision health.
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce prolonged exposure to digital screens and take regular breaks to prevent eye strain.

The link between vision difficulties and dementia risk is a promising area of research. The recent study conducted by the Kellogg Eye Centre at Michigan Medicine highlights the association between vision impairments and the likelihood of developing dementia. Prioritizing vision health through regular eye exams, wearing corrective eyewear, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can contribute to maintaining cognitive function and overall well-being. By recognizing the importance of vision care, we can take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of dementia and promote a healthier future.