Link between eye conditions and dementia

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By Ed Pinches | Monday 13 September 2021

Eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration, cataract and diabetes-related eye disease are linked to an increased risk of dementia, suggests research published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

What did the researchers do?

Using 12 364 UK adults aged between 55–73 years, researchers looked at people with and without a number of medical conditions. They then looked to see if they went onto develop dementia over a period of  ten years.

Our expert comment on the findings

Sara comments on morning sleep and dementiaDr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure are linked to an increased risk of dementia and an increased risk of eye conditions. This study suggests that the association between eye conditions and dementia is not entirely explained by shared underlying risk factors, and that there could be a more direct relationship.

“While association studies like this can highlight relationships between different medical conditions, we need to see experimental research to really understand the causes of these links and what they might mean for risk reduction and future health care.

“Although some researchers have suggested that a lack of sensory stimulation could accelerate the progression of dementia and that this could be the case for visual impairment, we don’t currently have good evidence to support this.

“Current evidence suggests that the best way to support brain health is by staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking only within the recommended limits and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check.”

The full research study

Br J Opthalmol: Associations of opthalmic and systemic conditions with incidence dementia in the UK Biobank can be accessed here

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About the author

Ed Pinches