ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There are more than 55 million people in the world living with dementia. As researchers try to learn more about how to identify this disease earlier, they’ve found that your sense of sight and hearing may play a role in dementia risk.
Every three seconds, someone develops dementia. Catching the disease early is key. You can be prepared and maybe slow down its decline. Now – researchers say they may one day be able to predict the disease by looking at your eyes!
Cecelia Lee, MD, MS, Ophthalmologist at University of Washington School of Medicine says, “A lot of people often refer to the eye as the window to the body, and what it really is, is that the eye is the window to the brain.”
After studying data on more than 3,900 participants, Doctor Lee and her colleagues found that people with diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration had about a 40 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
“All of those three conditions affect a different part of the retina which is connected to the brain.” Explains Doctor Lee.
Another recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that people with untreated visual impairments were significantly more likely to develop dementia.
And other research has suggested a link between hearing loss and dementia risk. In a new study published in the Lancet, researchers found giving older people hearing aids could cut the risk of cognitive decline in half. While more research is needed to learn exactly how seeing and hearing are linked to dementia, experts say keeping your eyes and your ears healthy may also benefit your brain.
Experts say regular eye exams are vital to catching any visual problems early on. The American Optometric Association recommends annual comprehensive eye exams for all adults over age 65.
Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
EYES, EARS, AND
BACKGROUND: The eyes and ears can be crucial indicators in the diagnosis of dementia. Visual and auditory assessments are necessary components of the comprehensive evaluation process. Oculist examinations may reveal signs of neurodegenerative changes in the retina, such as thinning of the retinal nerve fiber layer, which has been associated with certain forms of dementia. In addition, conditions like cataracts or glaucoma may impact cognitive function. Audiological assessments have shown hearing impairments may intensify cognitive decline and communication difficulties soon follow. Moreover, studies have suggested a correlation between hearing loss and an increased risk of developing dementia.
DIAGNOSIS: Diagnosing dementia involves a comprehensive assessment that considers various aspects, including visual and auditory findings. Healthcare professionals, typically neurologists or geriatricians, take a multi-faceted approach. They begin with an extensive medical history and cognitive assessment, which may involve standardized tests that evaluate memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive functions. Additionally, they may administer neurological exams to check for any physical signs of brain abnormalities. Vision and hearing tests play an important role in this process, as sensory deficiencies can sometimes amplify cognitive decline. Diagnosing dementia is also done through brain imaging scans (MRI or CT scans) and an analysis of the individual’s cerebrospinal fluid may be used also. It’s crucial to note that this diagnosis requires careful consideration and often involves several examinations over time to ensure accuracy and rule out other possible causes of cognitive decline.
NEW REGULATIONS: Scientists predict hearing loss may be the greatest treatable risk factor for dementia. In an NIH study, it was found that there’s a substantial link between one’s cognitive decline and hearing loss. Hearing loss has been tied to mental deterioration, but it can be modified. It’s suggested that individuals over the age of sixty get their hearing evaluated every year. The CDC recommends this is done if any of these signs are present: difficulty understanding conversations held in loud environments, trouble understanding speech over the phone, repeatedly asking others to speak slower or repeat themselves, ringing in one’s ears, and adjusting volumes to the max.
* For More Information, Contact:
Cecilia Lee, MD
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