Dementia: Fading eyesight has a ‘strong’ link to cognitive impairment – signs

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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New research from the Medical Informatics Centre at Peking University, China, suggests that there is a “strong association” between older people who have vision issues and those who eventually develop cognitive impairment or dementia. Associate Professor Beibei Xu said his study was “among the first” to evaluate such an association. The team did a “comprehensive examination of all available population-based studies in English”.

Professor Xu stated: “Our findings add to the growing evidence that fading eyesight is a risk factor for developing dementia.”

The lead author of the study added: “Diagnosing and treating eye conditions may be beneficial.

“Both to improve a person’s quality of life and also to potentially slow down or stop memory loss.”

For the meta-analysis, there was an inclusion of 16 high-quality studies encompassing 76,373 participants aged 50 and older; the review made three conclusions.


Firstly, people with visual impairments had, on average, a 60 percent higher risk of developing dementia.

Secondly, the likelihood of having cognitive impairment was 137 percent higher among people who were visually impaired compared to those who were not.

And, thirdly, compared to people without vision issues, those who had vision issues at the beginning of the research had a 44 percent higher risk of subsequent dementia.

To note, these studies were “observational”, which means that it’s not possible to determine whether visual impairment causes cognitive decline or if other factors are at play.

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For causation to be determined, further research and randomised clinical trials need to take place.

Factors impacting dementia risk

There are, however, identified risk factors for developing dementia in later life.

Leading charity Alzheimer’s Society listed the risk factors for developing dementia.

It’s important to note, however, that checking off the risk factors for the brain condition does not mean you are guaranteed to develop dementia.

Certain health conditions can increase the risk of dementia, such as hearing loss and depression.

Cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes all hike a person’s risk of dementia.

Moreover, these factors are most strongly linked to vascular dementia – a specific type of the brain disease.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is caused by a reduction of blood flow in the brain, the NHS noted.

Estimated to affect around 150,000 people in the UK, the symptoms can include:

  • Slowness of thought
  • Difficulty with planning and understanding
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes to your mood, personality or behaviour
  • Feeling disoriented and confused
  • Difficulty walking and keeping balance.

Anybody concerned that they may be showing signs of dementia are encouraged to book a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.

“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest that you go with them,” the health body added.

“Your GP can do some simple checks to try to find the cause of your symptoms.”

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