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Does an Eye Condition Increase Risk for Dementia?

Baby Boomers Drive the Demand for Elder Law in Estate Planning
Vision impairment can be one of the first signs of dementia, which is predicted to affect more than 130 million people worldwide by 2050.

Does an eye condition increase risk for Dementia? Unfortunately, the answer may be “Yes”. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, LLC, has come across a disturbing article that describes research studies that show that. Millions of people with eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetes-related eye disease, have an increased risk of developing dementia, according to The Guardian’s recent article entitled “Millions with eye conditions at higher risk of dementia, shows research.”

While past studies have suggested there could be a connection between eye conditions that cause vision impairment, and cognitive impairment, the incidence of these conditions increases with age, as do systemic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and stroke, which are all accepted risk factors for dementia. That meant it wasn’t clear whether eye conditions were linked with a higher incidence of dementia independent of systemic conditions.

Researchers have now found that age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease are independently associated with increased risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. The study looked at data from more than 12,000 British adults aged 55 to 73, who were taking part in the UK Biobank study. They were assessed in 2006 and again in 2010 with their health information tracked until early 2021. More than 2,300 cases of dementia were documented, according to the international team of experts led by academics from the Guangdong Eye Institute in China.

Researchers found those with age-related macular degeneration had a 26% increased risk of developing dementia. Those with cataracts had an 11% increased risk and people with diabetes-related eye disease had a 61% heightened risk. However, glaucoma wasn’t linked to a significant increase in risk. The researchers also found that people with conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and depression, were also more apt to be diagnosed with dementia. Risk was greatest in those with one of these conditions who also had some form of eye condition.

“Age-related macular degeneration, cataract and diabetes-related eye disease but not glaucoma are associated with an increased risk of dementia,” the authors concluded.

“Individuals with both ophthalmic and systemic conditions are at higher risk of dementia compared with those with an ophthalmic or systemic condition only.”

The study comes as Alzheimer’s Research UK says public willingness to get involved with medical research is at an “all-time high”. The charity said 29% of adults were more likely to consider getting involved in medical research because of the pandemic, according to a poll of 1,000 adults across England, Scotland, and Wales.

The survey found that 69% of the respondents said they’d be willing to get involved with dementia research, compared with 50% of a sample of people from a year ago.

Obviously, the more we can adopt healthy lifestyles and stay current on regular checkups with our primary physician, eye doctor, vision specialists and others, the lower our risk for Dementia.  That could mean a significant delay in needing expensive long-term care or in a premature death per Beck, Lenox & Stolzer.

Reference: The Guardian (Sep. 13, 2021) “Millions with eye conditions at higher risk of dementia, shows research”


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