Eye Disease Can Lead to Higher Risk for Memory Loss

To update the old saying, the eyes may be the windows to the brain. A new study suggests that people with even minimal eye damage involving the blood vessels of the retina, due to vascular disease, have a higher risk for memory and thinking declines.

Researchers say problems with the blood vessels in the eyes may be an important clue that the blood vessels in the brain are not functioning properly. If this proves to be the case, eye screening to check for damage to the blood vessels of the retina, or retinopathy, could potentially help identify people at risk for dementia.


The findings suggest that even very early retinopathy may be an indicator for small vessel disease and a risk factor for vessel-related memory and thinking declines, says researcher Mary Haan, DrPH, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco. She tells WebMD that larger studies with longer follow-up times will be needed to confirm the findings.

Stroke neurologist Rebecca F. Gottesman, MD, PhD, says it also remains to be seen if retinopathy screening provides clinically meaningful information about brain health. Gottesman is an associate professor of neurology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“Retinopathy [testing] may prove to be a useful tool for identifying people at risk for [mental] declines, but we aren’t there yet,” she tells WebMD. The study appears in the March 14 online issue of the journal Neurology.

Source: Web MD

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