Cataracts May Increase Risk of Incident Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study by Chinese Scholars

Are cataracts associated with dementia? Chinese scholars discovered through a prospective cohort study of more than 300,000 participants that cataracts can lead to structural changes and a reduction in size of the hippocampus, an important brain region associated with the visual cortex and cognition. Their research indicated that timely surgical treatment for cataract patients is conducive to the prevention of dementia.


Jintai Yu, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (TCCI) Investigator and Professor of Fudan University-affiliated Huashan Hospital, and his clinical research team collaborated with Professor Lan Tan, expert at the Neurology Department of Qingdao Municipal Hospital to survey over 300,000 participants between the ages of 37 and 73 with an average follow-up program of 8.4 years. They also conducted in-depth research into the association between cataracts, the surgical treatment for cataracts and the risk of dementia.


Researchers discovered that populations who underwent cataract extraction surgery have lower risks of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who didn’t, and they didn’t show higher risks in relation to healthy populations with no cataracts. Professor Jintai Yu said that the findings provided powerful evidence regarding the association between other eye diseases such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal, Biological Psychiatry.


According to the research teams, visual deprivation may result in less activated central pathways which leads to reduced cognitive load and increased structural brain damage. Jintai Yu said that the specific mechanism still needs further verification to clarify the potential association between cataract, surgical treatment and Alzheimer’s disease.


Due to the findings, Jintai Yu advocates for the general public to proactively watch for cataracts and when identified, have them removed surgically as early as possible to reduce risk.


Read more on Biological Psychiatry’s site


*Photo: Pixabay, Tobias Dahlberg*