Cataract surgery linked with lessened dementia risk

In October, YourLifeChoices brought you a story that showed many common eye conditions were linked to a heighted risk of dementia. Now it appears that surgery to correct at least one of those conditions lessens that risk.

A University of Washington study found strong evidence that cataract surgery was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.

Based on observational data of more than 3000 study participants older than 65, the researchers found that subjects who underwent cataract surgery had a nearly 30 per cent lower risk of developing dementia compared with those who did not.

Read: Common eye conditions linked to dementia risk

Better still, that lower level of risk persisted for at least a decade after surgery.

Cataract surgery was also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, specifically.

Lead researcher Dr Cecilia Lee said the observational study adjusted for a number of potential confounders, yet still yielded a strong association.

“This kind of evidence is as good as it gets in epidemiology,” Dr Lee said. “This is really exciting because no other medical intervention has shown such a strong association with lessening dementia risk in older individuals.”

Read: ‘Brain fog’ during menopause linked to dementia

The study was not able to establish a reason why cataract surgery may be associated with a lower dementia risk.

The researchers, however, did hypothesise that people may be getting higher quality sensory input after cataract surgery, which might have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of dementia.

“These results are consistent with the notion that sensory input to the brain is important to brain health,” said Dr Eric Larson, a principal investigator of the study.

Read: Viagra could be used to treat Alzheimer’s

Dr Lee said that another hypothesis was that after cataract surgery, people were getting more blue light.

“Some special cells in the retina are associated with cognition and regulate sleep cycles, and these cells respond well to blue light,” she said.

“Cataracts specifically block blue light, and cataract surgery could reactivate those cells.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW), more than 400,000 Australians are living with cataracts and it estimates that more than 95 per cent of those aged over 65 have some form of vision loss.

Previous studies by Dr Lee’s group at the University of Washington have shown a strong link between other retinal diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

Do you have cataracts? Have you been delaying cataract surgery? Does this study encourage you to book in for surgery on your eyes? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben

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