Scientists find strong link between eye disease glaucoma and Alzheimer’s risk

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We often hear about glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to vision loss. But did you know there’s a special kind of glaucoma where everything seems normal, at least pressure-wise?

This is called “normal-tension glaucoma,” and it’s tricky because the pressure in the eye remains normal, but the optic nerve still gets damaged.

The optic nerve is like a cable that sends pictures from your eye to your brain.

Taiwan Study Finds Connection to Alzheimer’s Disease

In a new large-scale study from Taiwan, researchers have discovered that people with normal-tension glaucoma are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that messes with your memory and thinking skills. This finding is significant because Alzheimer’s and glaucoma are both conditions where nerve cells break down and die.

The researchers looked at data from Taiwan’s national health insurance over 12 years. They compared Alzheimer’s rates in more than 15,000 people with normal-tension glaucoma to about 61,000 people without glaucoma.

Even after considering other health issues like diabetes and heart disease, they found that people with this kind of glaucoma were 52% more likely to get Alzheimer’s.

Older people, women, and those who had a stroke before were even more at risk.

Interestingly, using eye drops for glaucoma didn’t make any difference in the Alzheimer’s risk. Lead researcher Yu-Yen Chen, MD, Ph.D., suggests that those with normal-tension glaucoma should be screened for Alzheimer’s.

Why Should You Care?

This study is a big deal for several reasons. First, it helps doctors understand who might be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one has normal-tension glaucoma, an Alzheimer’s check might be a good idea.

Second, it sheds light on how nerve damage works in both conditions, which could help scientists come up with better treatments in the future.

This link between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s also matters to public health. If we know who’s at risk, we can keep an eye out (no pun intended) for early warning signs and maybe even slow down the diseases or stop them in their tracks.

What’s Next?

Although not everyone with normal-tension glaucoma will develop Alzheimer’s, it’s clear that these two conditions are connected in some way.

More research is needed to figure out exactly how they’re related and what can be done about it.

Both conditions result from the death of nerve cells, but they affect different parts of the body: the eyes in glaucoma and the brain in Alzheimer’s.

Understanding the similarities and differences could open doors for new treatments for both conditions.

For now, if you or someone you know has normal-tension glaucoma, it might be worth discussing Alzheimer’s screening with a healthcare provider. This study shows that being proactive could make all the difference.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about These places in the U.S. have the most cases of Alzheimer’s disease and findings of Common blood conditions linked to reduced Alzheimer’s risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and results showing flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s disease.

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