In a new study from Anglia Ruskin University, researchers found that older people with vision loss are much more likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia.
They examined World Health Organisation data on more than 32,000 people.
The overall prevalence of mild cognitive impairment was 15.3% in the study sample of 32,715 people, while around 44% of the total number of people surveyed had vision impairment.
The team found that people with loss in both near and far vision were 1.7 times more likely to suffer from mild cognitive impairment.
People with impairment of their near vision were 1.3 times more likely to suffer from mild cognitive impairment than someone with no vision impairment.
However, people who reported only loss of their far vision did not appear to have an increased risk.
The research shows for the first time that vision impairment increases the chances of having mild cognitive impairment.
Although not everyone with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop it, there is a likelihood of progression to dementia, which is one of the major causes of disability and dependency in the older population.
The team says research now needs to focus on whether intervention to improve quality of vision can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, and ultimately dementia.
More work needs to be done to examine any possible causation, and what the reasons might be behind it.
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The study is published in Ageing Clinical and Experimental Research. One author of the study is Dr. Lee Smith.
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