Visual Impairment May be a Risk Factor for Dementia

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A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology sought to investigate the link between visual impairment and risk of cognitive impairment in older women.  

A total 1061 women (mean [SD] age, 73.8 [3.7] years) were included in this secondary analysis of a prospective longitudinal cohort study, with 19.4% reporting visual impairment and 17.2% having objective visual impairment. Dementia and mild cognitive impairment were reported in 4.0% and 2.6% of patients, respectively.

At post–eye examination follow-up, women with objective visual impairment at baseline were more likely to develop dementia compared with those without at baseline. The risk of dementia increased in women who had a visual acuity of 20/100 or worse at baseline, followed by 20/80 or worse, and 20/40 or worse. The greatest risk of mild cognitive impairment was in women with baseline visual acuity of 20/100 or worse.

The researchers concluded that although there appears to be a link between objective visual impairment and an increased risk of incident dementia, “the incident cases of dementia and the proportion of those with visual impairment were low. Research is needed to evaluate the effect of specific ophthalmic interventions on dementia.”



Tran EM, Stefanick ML, Henderson VW, et al. Association of Visual Impairment With Risk of Incident Dementia in a Women’s Health Initiative Population. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online April 16, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.0959

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