Alzheimer's disease and vision

Advances in research and clinical practice suggest that unusual vision changes may be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

Forty percent of our brain is involved in the conveyance and processing of visual information, and in the stabilization and movement of our eyes. An increasing body of evidence demonstrates that memory issues caused by dementias are closely and significantly linked to vision impairment.

So it is not surprising that sometimes the earliest manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease involves vision.

More than 5.5 million Americans are living with dementia, cognitive decline, or other neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of death in the US, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the number of people affected will double by 2060.

Neuro-ophthalmology is the study and treatment of neurological disorders that affect eyesight. In essence, it is everything to do with eyes and vision, relating to problems outside the eye including brain disorders.

Rapid advances in neuro-ophthalmology, promise tools that could assess, treat and even prevent brain disease. Work at the leading edge of medical science is helping discover and refine techniques and technologies that will non-invasively assess retinal architecture, function and chemistry, as well as eye stability and movement changes, as early indicators of cognitive decline.

It is the hope of the vision medical community that in the near future, early Alzheimer’s disease detection will be possible through new technologies in retinal evaluation to help tackle disease at the earliest stages.

In the meantime, it is important to take care of one’s vision by scheduling regular eye check ups, especially as one gets older. Be aware of and seek prompt attention for unusual or sudden changes in eyesight such as blurriness, loss of vision, altered peripheral vision, double vision or difficulties with depth perception, as these could indicate underlying neurological causes that may need further investigation and medical attention.

Adapted from the original article published in the August 2019 issue of the Santa Monica Star.

For more information, please contact the Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at 310-829-8701 or go to our website to schedule a consultation.

Howard R. Krauss MD

Howard R. Krauss, MD, is a surgical neuro-ophthalmologist, co-founder of Pacific Neuroscience Institute, and Director of Ophthalmology at Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. He specializes in skull base and orbital diseases and surgery, and pioneered transnasal image-guided endoscopic orbital tumor surgery, a safer, less invasive and more efficacious approach to the removal and management of orbital apex tumors.

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