People with eye conditions at higher risk of dementia: International study

September 14, 2021 0 By Faizy Abdulkalam

A large study led by a team of international experts, including academics from the Guangdong Eye Institute in China, found that people with eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease have an increased risk of developing dementia. 

The researchers reportedly examined data from 12,364 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 new study which was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. 

After assessing health data, the researchers said that 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.

Researchers also found that people with conditions including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression were also more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Risk was highest among people with one of these conditions who also had some form of eye condition, they said.

“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.”

Previous research had shown that vision impairment can be one of the first signs of the disease, which is predicted to affect more than 130 million people worldwide by 2050. Alzheimer’s Research UK recently stated that public willingness to get involved with medical research is at an “all-time high”.

“This is positive news for the thousands of studies waiting to get under way to help understand and tackle health conditions like dementia, cancer, and heart disease,” said Hilary Evans, the chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK.