Poor sight linked with cognitive decline in older adults, new study finds

Published: Wednesday, August 30, 2017 by Interim HealthCare

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology has revealed a link between visual impairment and a higher risk of cognitive problems, as well as dementia. Researchers observed the relationship in older adults. The study was conducted by scientists based at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Details of the study
Researchers examined data from two samples: the 1999 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health and Aging Trends Study, which was conducted between 2011 and 2015. The latter study collected data from nationwide participants who received Medicare. The former was a general population survey - the participants were not members of any institutions.

Participants from both studies were all 60 or older, with subjects studied in the NHATS survey at least 65. Study authors examined results from vision tests and as self-reported eye sight information. Participants in the NHANES study had completed a cognitive performance test, while the NHATS participants had undergone assessment for dementia.

The investigation revealed a notable correlation between poor eyesight and both cognitive decline and dementia. Those with visual impairment experienced anywhere from a 1.8 to 2.0 fold higher chance of experiencing some form of cognitive problem. The connection was most apparent among those who self-reported eyesight problems and those who had undergone distance eyesight impairment testing.

The study authors conceded, however, that further investigation is needed to determine a potential causative relationship between the two conditions. The analysis, in its current state, reveals an observational relationship.


The link between cognition problems and poor eyesight was found in older adults over 60.

Eyesight problems predicted to increase
According to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health, vision problems are also predicted to increase across the U.S. population in the coming decades. By 2050, the rate of blindness will likely have doubled from levels observed in 2016, National Eye Institute studies indicated. The trend can be attributed to the aging population. NEI Director Dr. Paul A. Sieving elaborated on the significance of the findings in a press release.

"These findings are an important forewarning of the magnitude of vision loss to come," he said. "They suggest that there is a huge opportunity for screening efforts to identify people with correctable vision problems and early signs of eye diseases. Early detection and intervention — possibly as simple as prescribing corrective lenses — could go a long way toward preventing a significant proportion of avoidable vision loss."

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