Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure that removes cataracts, the cloudy formations on the eye’s lens that impair vision.
Now, researchers are discovering that vision loss may be linked to a higher rate of dementia and suggest that restoring clear vision (through cataract surgery, for example) may reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Is There a Correlation Between Cataracts and Dementia?
More than half of those 80 or older have had at least one cataract. Many people in this age range also have dementia, a decline in cognitive functioning.
But is there a connection between these two seemingly unrelated conditions?
Recent studies suggest that, yes, there could be a link. One 15-year study found that patients with age-related vision problems, including cataracts, had a higher incidence of dementia.
The 2021 study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, followed 12,000 subjects aged 55-73. When compared to patients with healthy vision, cataract patients had an 11% higher incidence of dementia.
Can Cataract Surgery Prevent Dementia?
Can sight-saving cataract surgery reduce your risk of dementia? It certainly looks promising!
A 2022 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that removing cataracts was “significantly associated with a lower risk of dementia development.” In fact, patients who had undergone cataract surgery had a 29% lower rate of dementia.
In addition, MRI scans have shown greater brain activity following cataract surgery.
How Can Vision Loss Cause Dementia?
Scientists studying the link between vision loss and dementia suspect that vision loss negatively impacts the brain. They theorize that the more visual information we receive, the more active our brains are, and brain activity may be able to fend off dementia.
For this reason, by restoring clear vision, cataract surgery may stimulate the brain and prevent cognitive decline.
There could be an emotional and social dimension to cognitive decline as well. People who suffer from significant vision loss often feel isolated. They may feel discouraged by their inability to recognize faces or perform everyday tasks, and may avoid social interactions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social isolation raises the risk of developing dementia by 50%.
If you have cataracts and you feel your quality of life is affected, schedule an appointment with Michael L. Smookler, O.D. in West Roxbury without delay. We’ll answer your questions about cataract surgery and ensure you receive optimal treatment.
Q&A With Our Optometrist
How is cataract surgery performed?
Cataract surgery is a short 30-40 minute procedure that replaces your cloudy, natural lens with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). First, the eye surgeon makes a hole in the cloudy lens and breaks it into tiny pieces. Next, the eye surgeon places the new clear lens onto the eye. You’ll be conscious throughout the surgery. The surgery is safe, effective and painless.
Is cataract surgery always successful?
Cataract surgery is highly successful, with a 99% success rate. Complications from cataract surgery are very rare.