Diseases that can rob you of vision as you age also appear to be tied to an increased risk for dementia, a new study finds.
Specifically, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease were linked with a higher likelihood of dementia, researchers in China say. However, one other common eye ailment, glaucoma, was not linked to dementia risk.
The new study can’t prove that vision problems cause dementia, only that the two appear to be associated, the researchers stressed. Risks for dementia rose even higher if other chronic ills were added in.
“Newly developed hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and depression mediated [affected] the association between cataract/ diabetes-related eye disease and dementia,” researchers led by Dr. Xianwen Shang, an ophthalmologist at Guangdong Academy of Medical Sciences in Guangzhou note.
One expert in the United States agrees that the findings don’t mean that eye trouble causes dementia.
“The exact mechanism or reason that the eye disease could increase someone’s risk of dementia was not fully discussed in the study,” Dr. Matthew Gorski, an ophthalmologist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. says.
“Since cataracts are a treatable, reversible condition, I would be curious what effect cataract surgery has on one’s risk of developing dementia. It is also interesting that glaucoma, another potentially blinding eye condition, was not associated with an increased risk of dementia and raises further questions as to how these diseases are related to dementia,” he says.
In the new study, Shang’s group collected data on more than 12,300 British adults, ages 55-73, who took part in the UK Biobank study. The participants were