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Published on August 08, 2022

New Study Shows Cataract Surgery Could Decrease Dementia Risk by 30%

mom and son on couch, laughing

By Cody Miller, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer

A recent Seattle-based study suggests that cataract surgery, a simple procedure to improve cloudy vision, could significantly reduce the risk of dementia compared to those who don't get the surgery.

The study, which was first published by JAMA Network, wanted to answer the question, "Is cataract extraction associated with reduced risk of developing dementia?"

Researchers collected data over the course of 24 years on more than 3,000 patients who were 65 years or older and had cataracts. They then took another two years to dig through and analyze the information they had gathered.

According to the findings, there was a clear correlation between the participants who received cataract surgery and a reduced risk of dementia. Overall, the study found that cataract surgery reduced a person's risk of developing dementia by about 30%, additionally, researchers found the surgery continued to prevent dementia development for about 10 years.

Sara Huh, MD, Ophthalmologist at EvergreenHealth Eye Care shares her thoughts on the importance of this study. "In 2012, my father was diagnosed with cataracts. As a cataract surgeon, I pushed him to get surgery, but he never complained about his vision nor would he get the operation done," says Dr. Huh. "Five years later, he was diagnosed with dementia. At the time, there wasn't any research to suggest that these two conditions were related, but this study seems to have discovered a link."

While these findings are important, they will likely lead to additional studies regarding the link between our vision and cognitive health, and the answer as to why cataract surgery reduced dementia risk.

However, the study's authors note that there are several possible reasons cataracts could lead to a higher risk of dementia:

"Although the results of the study might not apply directly to my father, I wonder now if earlier surgical intervention would have delayed his dementia diagnosis." - Sara Huh, MD, EvergreenHealth Eye Care

  • A decline in vision can lead to a drop in socializing, a withdrawal from social settings and a reduction in activity and exercise, which all are associated with an increased risk of dementia.
  • Cataract-related visual impairment can also decrease sensory input and stimulation, which could quicken or augment cognitive decline through atrophy in the outer part of the brain.
  • Cataracts can lead to a lowered quantity and quality of light entering the eyes. This could affect certain cells in our eyes that are sensitive to blue light and are thought to be associated with our cognitive health and circadian rhythms.

Next Steps for You and Your Loved Ones

The results of the study tell us the importance of our eye health as we age is not only for our vision but also an important factor in our mental and cognitive health.

As you and your loved ones get older, it's essential to have your vision routinely checked.

It's a simple process for a couple of big payoffs: restored vision and a reduced chance of losing your cognitive abilities to dementia.

Sara Huh Meet the Expert

Sara Huh, MD

Dr. Sara Huh is a fellowship-trained ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist in practice since 2013. Her practice is comprised of comprehensive ophthalmology, including management of cataracts and cataract surgery, diabetic eye care, dry eye treatment, and glaucoma.

She enjoys helping patients attain their best possible vision.

Read Dr. Sara Huh's full profile

Learn more about Eye Care services at EvergreenHealth

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