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Latest Study Shows Eye Conditions Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Latest Study Shows Eye Conditions Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Thursday 30 September 2021

Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease are associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Vision impairment can be one of the first signs of dementia, and reduced stimulation of visual sensory pathways is believed to accelerate its progression. Dementia is predicted to affect more than 130 million people worldwide by 2050.

The research examined data from 12,364 British adults aged 55 to 73, who were taking part in the UK Biobank study. They were assessed in 2006 and again in 2010 with their health information tracked until early 2021.

The study concluded that “Age-related macular degeneration, cataract and diabetes-related eye disease, but not glaucoma, are associated with an increased risk of dementia.”

After assessing health data, researchers found those with age-related macular degeneration had a 26% increased risk of developing dementia. Those with cataracts had an 11% increased risk, and people with diabetes-related eye disease had a 61% increased risk. Glaucoma was not linked to a significantly heightened risk.

At the start of the study, participants were asked whether they had ever experienced heart attack, angina, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes and were assessed for depression. Having one of these conditions (a systemic condition) as well as an ophthalmic condition increased the risk of dementia further.

The study comes as Alzheimer’s Research UK says that public willingness to get involved with medical research is at an all-time high. The charity said 29% of adults were more likely to consider getting involved in medical research because of the pandemic.

“This is positive news for thousands of studies waiting to get under way to help understand and tackle health conditions like dementia, cancer, and heart disease.” (Hilary Evans, Chief Executive Alzheimer’s Research UK)

Source: BMJ Shang, X, et al (2021) Associations of ophthalmic and systemic conditions with incident dementia in the UK Biobank. British Journal of Ophthalmology.


  1. The Guardian.
  2. Medical News Today.
  3. News Medical.
  4. Times Series.


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