Visionary Insight Into Dementia

Sight impairment could increase one’s risk of developing dementia, finds a research team from China and the United States.

Asian Scientist Magazine (Jul. 26, 2022)– Older adults with sight impairment are at higher risk of developing dementia, found a recent systematic review study. Vision problems are growing in prevalence, with over 2.2 billion people experiencing some form of vision impairment in the world. More commonly diagnosed in older adults, eyesight problems can hinder one’s daily life. If left untreated, they can also contribute to the cognitive decline and development of diseases like dementia in people.

A multinational team of researchers from Peking University in China and University of Denver in the United States, published this finding in Aging and Mental Health, highlighting the importance of early intervention for sight issues. This systematic review is among the first to quantitatively evaluate the relationship between vision problems and dementia by analysing current studies.

Dementia is a growing public health concern and is estimated to affect 78 million people by 2030. Dementia has devastating effects on patients—slowly manifesting via gradual memory loss before settling into complete dependence on others to perform daily tasks. Besides impairing cognitive functions, dementia also places heavy economic burdens on the healthcare system and psychological burden on caregivers. There is an urgent need for better understanding of dementia risk factors to improve people’s quality of life.

The researchers identified 16 studies which evaluated association between vision problems and cognitive functioning in older adults. The observational studies included both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies involving over 76,000 participants. Following that, statistical analyses were conducted after accounting for potential confounds such as study design and data collection methods.

The team found that the likelihood of older adults with sight issues developing dementia was much higher than the average individuals, standing at 137%. Associate Professor Beibei Xu, from the Medical Informatics Centre at Peking University, said that “Identifying modifiable risk factors is the first critical step for developing effective interventions to achieve this goal [of reducing the negative impacts of dementia]”.

This finding emphasises the importance of addressing risk factors early, particularly vision problems with corrective solutions. However, as the analysis looked into a limited number of studies, more in-depth research needs to be done to understand the association better.

The team recognises the clinical implications of this study and recommends that future studies should be conducted to examine the effectiveness of treatments and their impact on slowing dementia in people.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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