Learn what common eye conditions can potentially increase the risk of cognitive problems 12 Jan, 2022

Visual impairment happens with age, making it a significant problem among the elderly. Like other parts of the body, as people approach the age of 70 to 90, the function of the eyes decreases.0

Today, well look at vision loss more than a normal part of aging. Studies suggest visual impairment could be linked to dementia and increase the risk of developing memory problems.

Learn what common eye conditions can potentially increase the risk of cognitive problems.

1.Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is an eye disease that occurs as you age and worsens over time. Its the number one cause of severe and permanent vision loss in people older than 60.

AMD happens when the macula, the small middle portion of your retina, wears down. The retina is the nerve tissue on the inside back of your eye that senses light and receives visual information.

Based on research, the risk of dementia for those with age-related macular degeneration is 26% higher than those without any vision conditions.

To help prevent age-related macular degeneration, here are some tips:

    1. Know your family history

    If you have a relative with AMD, you have a high risk of developing it.

    2. Quit smoking

    Smoking can increase the incidence of heart disease and lung cancer. But not many people know that it can also affect your vision. Smoking makes you three to four times more likely to develop AMD than those who don’t smoke.

    3. Eat greens rich in antioxidants

    Antioxidants can help fight free radicals that contribute to vision loss.

    4. Consider taking supplements

    Check with your doctor if you're deficient in vitamins for the eyes.

    AMD can incite other vision problems, such as blurry vision, color perception problems, and dark areas in the center of your vision. Eye problems can affect your mobility and how you do your task daily. Visit an eye specialist if you need advice.

2. Cataracts

Cataracts are also a part of the aging process. They occur when the clear lens of the eyes becomes clouded and results in blurry or foggy vision. Cataracts usually begin at age 40, but symptoms don't appear until you reach age 60.

You have a high risk of developing cataracts if you:

  • Have a family who has cataracts
  • Smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol
  • Exposed in an environment with air pollution

Additionally, some factors like diabetes, certain medications, and prolonged exposure to the sun without any sunglasses can speed up the development of cataracts. Based on the study, cataracts can increase the incidence of dementia by 11%.

Youll ultimately develop cataracts. Here are some suggestions to slow the process:

    1. Quit smoking

    Smoking can increase your risk of cataracts by up to three times than nonsmokers.

    2. Wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat

    When going out, make sure to wear sunglasses labeled UV 400 or a hat for protection against harmful ultraviolet light rays.

    3. Visit an ophthalmologist for regular eye care

    Out of the five senses, vision is the most important. Visit an eye expert to know your risk of developing cataracts and other eye diseases.

    Additionally, the food you eat can also affect your eye health. Eat foods rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and E. These substances can slow the development or reduce the risk of cortical and nuclear cataracts.

3. Diabetes-related eye disease

Diabetes is a condition that affects many parts of the body, including the eyes. Diabetes-related eye disease is the term used when diabetes complications cause damage to the blood vessels at the back of the retina, resulting in visual problems.

Diabetes-related eye disease includes:

  • Cataract
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Diabetic macular edema and
  • Glaucoma

Research revealed that people with diabetes-related eye conditions are 61% at risk of developing dementia, except for glaucoma.

Other vision problems that are related to diabetes could result in:

  • Blurry vision
    If the body cant control blood sugar levels, fluid could leak into your eyes lens, causing the lens to swell and change shape. Focusing your vision gets harder, and everything you see becomes blurry.
  • Double vision
    When diabetes causes damage to the nerves that move the eyes and control the external eye muscles, it results in double vision.

To prevent diabetes-related eye disease, here are some tips:

    1. Manage your blood sugar

    High blood sugar can cause blurry vision, which usually goes away after the sugar level stabilizes. However, it can also damage the blood vessels in your eyes, so its best to get help with controlling your glucose levels.

    2. Get your eye examined at least once every year

    If you get your eye checked regularly, your ophthalmologist could spot eye disease early on and apply treatment before it gets worse.

    3. Give up smoking

    Smoking can complicate many health conditions, including that of the eyes. Quit smoking to lower the risk of diabetes-related eye diseases.

    4. Regular exercise

    Exercise increases blood circulation in the retina and optic nerve. In addition, regular exercise also helps lower blood sugar levels that cause damage to your vision.

What raises the risk of dementia?

Several studies were performed on various health conditions that raise the risk of dementia. A few of these include heart disease, stroke, depression, and eye conditions. If a person has any of these, the incidence of dementia is high.

In an observational study of 12,364 adults aged 55-73, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetes-related eye disease can increase the risk of dementia by 26%, 11%, and 61%, respectively.

Can poor vision cause dementia?

Poor vision alone cant cause dementia, but it can raise the risk of developing it. Researchers havent determined the single cause of the changes in the brain that lead to cognitive decline.

Many agree that dementia could be caused by a combination of factors, including lifestyle, health conditions, age, genes, and the environment.


The connection between eye conditions and dementia needs more investigation. It could potentially increase the risk of dementia, especially if eye conditions co-occur with other complex disorders, like diabetes, depression, and heart disease.

Diabetes-related eye diseases have the highest risk of dementia at 61%, out of other common eye conditions. Managing diabetes is challenging, but before the complication results in visual impairment or cognitive problems, visit an eye specialist for advice.

Syed Rizvi

Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.

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