In a recent study, researchers from the University of Washington found that eye diseases could be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The study shows a strong link between three degenerative eye diseases and Alzheimer’ disease: age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
Alzheimer’ disease is the most common dementia, and discovering risk factors may lead to early detection and prevention.
Currently, more than 46 million older adults are affected by dementia worldwide and 131.5 million cases are expected by 2050.
For years, Alzheimer’s researchers focused on the amyloid buildup in the brain tissue, but that hasn’t brought many benefits to patients.
A better understanding of neurodegeneration in the eyes and the brain may bring more success in diagnosing Alzheimer’s early and developing better treatments.
In the current study, the team examined the connection between the eye diseases and Alzheimer’s in a total of 3,877 people.
These people were age 65 and older and did not have Alzheimer’s disease at the time of enrollment.
Over the 5-year study, 792 cases of Alzheimer’s disease were diagnosed.
The team found that patients with age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma were at 40 % to 50% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to people without these eye conditions.
The researchers suggest that anything happening in the eyes may relate to what’s happening in the brain, an extension of the central nervous system.
Therefore, ophthalmologists should be more aware of the risks of developing dementia for people with these eye conditions.
In addition, primary care doctors seeing patients with these eye conditions might be more careful on checking on possible dementia or memory loss.
Of course, the possible connections need more work in the future.
The results offer physicians a new way to detect those at higher risk of this disorder, which causes memory loss and other symptoms of cognitive decline.
Dr. Cecilia Lee, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the UW School of Medicine, is the lead researcher.
The study is published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
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Source: Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.