Can My Retina Thinning Be a Sign of Cognitive Decline?
New studies continue to emerge as scientists and researchers try to bridge the gap between the unknown and diseases associated with cognitive performance such as Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Comprehensive eye examinations that include retinal imaging have diagnosed many underlying health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease and even STDs. New and ongoing research is shedding new light on the link between the retina and mental deterioration. People with Alzheimer’s often live with visual impairments that can be associated with memory loss, disorientation, confusion and social withdrawal.
Can my thinning retina be a sign of cognitive decline? Risk factors for cognitive decline vary considerably. And considering that, any small links found between thinning retinas and cognitive decline are still speculative at this point. However, some research does indicate that the thinning of the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye, is linked to cognitive performance. In fairness, the retina does decrease in thickness as we age so the theory is not foolproof at this stage. Retinal diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are degenerative eye conditions and recent studies have found that people with these eye diseases are 40-50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Because there may be a correlation, it is suggested that patients have routine eye exams and if there is noticeable change to the retina, schedule an appointment with your primary doctor. Results from a comprehensive eye exam can provide an avenue for discussion on brain disorders and other health concerns.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the presence of amyloid-beta proteins found in the brain. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease also have the amyloid-beta proteins present in the retina as well. Ironically, cataracts, which result because of a build up of proteins in the lens, are not linked to cognitive decline. Some reports have also shown that a small percentage of patients in a study suggest a link between the thinning of one layer of the retina, the retinal nerve fiber, with lower performance on cognitive testing but nothing is conclusive yet. Because the medical community does not have enough information as of now to link retinal thinning to cognitive decline, the most common concern for thinning retinas is the likelihood of a retinal tear or a retinal detachment, either of which could result in vision loss. If you experience symptoms of a retinal detachment that include blurred vision, flashes of light and a shadow covering over the eye, seek immediate medical attention.
For a comprehensive eye exam with retinal imaging, call Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or submit your appointment request online at WEBSITE.