Scientists Find Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease And Degenerative Eye Diseases

A new study led by the University of Washington School of Medicine suggests that there might be a link between three types of degenerative eye diseases and Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that continues to affect millions of people worldwide.

According to a report from HealthDay, close to 3,900 people aged 65 and older were randomly chosen to participate in the study. At the start of the research, none of the participants were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but 792 of them were ultimately diagnosed with the neurodegenerative condition over the course of five years. As further specified by Science Daily, the subjects were part of the Adult Changes in Thought database, a project started in 1994 by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute researcher Dr. Eric Larson.

Based on the study’s findings, patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma had a 40 to 50 percent greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who did not suffer from any of those three degenerative eye diseases. According to Science Daily, the results also suggested that cataracts are not a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

“What we found was not subtle,” read a statement from study co-author and UW School of Medicine professor Dr. Paul Crane.

“This study solidifies that there are mechanistic things we can learn from the brain by looking at the eye.”

Despite how the research’s results linked the three eye diseases to Alzheimer’s disease, study lead author Dr. Cecilia Lee, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the UW School of Medicine, stressed that people with such conditions are not automatically going to get Alzheimer’s at some point in their lives. The study, however, could be helpful to medical professionals, as it could assist them in determining if patients have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s or not.

“The main message from this study is that ophthalmologists should be more aware of the risks of developing dementia for people with these eye conditions and primary care doctors seeing patients with these eye conditions might be more careful on checking on possible dementia or memory loss,” said Lee.

While the researchers acknowledged that further studies are needed to confirm the possible link between certain eye conditions and Alzheimer’s disease, Lee speculated that the association might exist because “anything that happens in the eye” could tie in with what goes on in the brain.

At the present, about 46 million elderly adults around the world suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with this number expected to almost multiply by threefold to 131.5 million by 2050. The researchers further noted that Alzheimer’s is considered the most common form of dementia, adding that their study and others could be instrumental in the early detection of the disease and the timely launch of preventive measures against it.

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