"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Untreated vision problems increase the danger of dementia

July 14, 2023 – People with vision problems who don't wear glasses or seek treatment, corresponding to surgery, usually tend to develop dementia, in response to probably the most comprehensive study on the topic in 15 years.

The results suggest that “optimizing” vision, corresponding to by wearing glasses or having cataract surgery, could help prevent dementia. The authors wrote that further studies are needed to look at how optimizing vision affects cognitive decline and dementia risk.

The Results were published on Thursday within the magazine JAMA Ophthalmology and included data from 2,967 people ages 71 and older who accomplished tablet-based vision tests as a part of the 2021 National Health and Aging Trends Study. They also answered survey questions on cognition and dementia. The vision tests measured how well people could see things that were far-off, things that were very near them, or things that didn't have a transparent outline to tell apart them from the background.

Overall, 12% of the study participants suffered from dementia. Their average age was 77 years.

However, when studying individuals with uncorrected vision problems, researchers found:

  • 22% of people that had problems seeing things near them suffered from dementia
  • 33% of people that had moderate or more severe problems seeing things in the space suffered from dementia
  • 26% of individuals with contrast sensitivity suffered from dementia

People with multiple vision problems are much more more likely to develop dementia.

The researchers said their findings were the primary comprehensive update of information on the link between vision and dementia in 15 years, adding that older data used self-reports of visual function, which likely meant the outcomes weren't accurate.

In a comment Sheila West, PhD, Pharm D, professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, wrote in an article published alongside the study that the study highlights the necessity to further investigate the link between vision problems and dementia because it could not simply be a matter of physical changes within the brain.

“Vision loss is associated with social isolation, reading difficulties, and a general decline in personal and social stimulation,” West wrote. “Personal and social isolation are risk factors for cognitive decline. If there is even an indirect link between visual impairment and cognitive loss, then improving vision should reduce the risk of dementia or at least slow its progression.”

West identified that providing visual aids to individuals with dementia in care facilities is difficult because, for instance, glasses are sometimes lost or families consider that surgery shouldn't be definitely worth the emotional trauma.

The CDC According to Forbes, greater than 5 million people within the United States suffer from dementia. By 2060, this number is predicted to rise to 14 million.