For many years, dementia including Alzheimer’s Disease, has been considered one of the causes of a decrease in visual perception. Other symptoms, including confusion and combativeness have been thought due to visual abnormalities. And, certainly, this is still the prevailing concept.
However, Harvard researchers have discovered that visual perception may be one of the root causes of dementia.
Although eye disease doesn’t always result in cognitive decline, the researchers found that it is more common than once believed. Cataracts, macular degeneration, optic nerve disease, glaucoma and other sight-threatening diseases may precipitate sensory deprivation which, in turn, may contribute to cognitive deterioration and the development of dementia.
Aging alone, in the absence of disease, reduces the ability to process visual information. Blurring, slowing of the adjustment to changes in light, reduced peripheral vision, reduced ability to process three-dimensional objects, and others are all issues associated with aging. Visual hallucinations, also called Charles Bonnet syndrome may be present in patients with dementia. Seeing imaginary geometric patterns, shapes, scenery or even insects may be reported by patients with dementia. These symptoms and others may last moments, minutes or hours. Changes in blood supply in the brain are thought to cause “misfiring” of the visual cortex.
Caregivers can often help by creating easy to see aids, like contrasting colors or colored tape on the floor near hazards including staircases and barriers, etc. Often, however, reassurance and understanding are the only tools we have to deal with cognitive decline!
Your ophthalmologist is uniquely qualified to determine if eye problems exist and contribute to cognitive impairment.
For more information, please contact us for an appointment. We are here to help!