The Daily Telegraph
Higher dementia risk link to eye conditions
People with macular degeneration 25pc more likely to develop the disease, study suggests
People who develop certain eye conditions are at increased risk of dementia, research has found. Around 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from age-related macular degeneration, where a person’s eyesight worsens as they get older. A UK Biobank study found that people with the condition were 25 per cent more likely to develop dementia. For people with cataracts, the increased risk of dementia is 11 per cent compared to people with no optical health issues.
PEOPLE who develop certain eye conditions are also at increased risk of dementia, research has found.
Around 1.5million people in the UK suffer from age-related macular degeneration, a condition where a person’s eyesight worsens as they get older.
A UK Biobank study of more than 12,000 middle-aged people found that people with the condition were 25 per cent more likely to develop dementia.
For people with cataracts, a condition that affects around one in three people aged over 65, the increased risk of dementia is 11 per cent compared to people with no optical health issues.
People with diabetes-related eye disease had a 61 per cent greater risk of dementia. Glaucoma was not linked to a significant increase in risk.
Dementia is one of the biggest killers in Britain, accounting for one in every nine deaths last year, with only Covid (12.1 per cent) claiming more lives.
Participants in the study were assessed in 2006 and again in 2010, and then followed up until this year.
More than 2,300 cases of dementia were documented, according to the experts led by academics from the Guangdong Eye Institute in China.
Researchers also found that people with previous health conditions – including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression – were 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.
The authors concluded: “Age-related macular degeneration, cataract and diabetes-related eye disease but not glaucoma are associated with an increased risk of dementia.
“Individuals with both ophthalmic and systemic conditions are at higher risk of dementia compared with those with an ophthalmic or systemic condition only.” The researchers did not look
‘Individuals with both ophthalmic and systemic conditions are at higher risk of dementia’
at the mechanisms underlying the correlation, and as a result are unable to ascertain causation; it is impossible to conclusively say whether or not eye diseases in some way contribute to dementia, or if they are merely linked.
However, writing in the paper, published in The British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers indicate it is unlikely that eye diseases cause dementia and it is more likely that the two health issues share a common cause.
“The mechanisms for the positive association between ophthalmic conditions and dementia are largely unknown, but there are several potential pathways for this association,” the researchers write.
“First, ophthalmic conditions are associated with well-known risk factors of dementia including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension and depression.
“Second, ophthalmic conditions and dementia have many shared risk factors including older age, low levels of education, smoking and physical inactivity.”