Cataract Removal and Dementia Prevention: A Hopeful Connection

Cataracts affect more than 24 million American adults aged 40 and older. The leading cause of blindness, cataracts develop when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, in part due to normal oxidative stress and exposure to the sun’s radiation. Other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and heavy alcohol consumption can also contribute. 

At first, cataracts may not affect your vision in a dramatic way. But as they progress over time, driving, reading, and other daily activities can become challenging. Currently surgical removal and replacement with a clear, intraocular lens is the only way to treat cataracts and their impact on your eyesight.

On a related note to aging, dementia affects a smaller portion of the population: in 2014, there were an estimated five million adults 65 and older with some form of dementia. But the memory loss that comes with it can also make the normal activities you might enjoy — like visiting with friends or going shopping — challenging. 

Thanks to a new study led by Director of Clinical research at the University of Washington, Dr. Cecelia Lee, it appears that cataract removal may also reduce your risk of developing dementia

Cataracts and Dementia: A Possible Connection

“There is so much that we do not know yet,” Dr. Lee admits in an interview with NewScientist about her findings. But results from the eight-year study indicate that cataract removal may help improve brain stimulation. “Because cataracts affect the overall quality of light that reaches the retina,” Dr. Lee says, “cataract surgery may enable the reactivation of those cells in a way that is protective against cognitive decline.”

Others have made similar discoveries about the relationship between vision and mental impairment. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, for example, have identified that even mild decline of one or multiple senses was directly related to an increased risk of dementia. And a 2020 study published in Nature concludes that “[hazard ratios of dementia increased significantly as visual acuity worsened.”

These findings all suggest that improving sensory health (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) may provide some hope. 

A Chance for Change

When your vision and daily functions are impaired by cataracts, the benefits of surgical removal go beyond keeping your brain stimulated. This life-changing procedure can allow you to again see clearly and enjoy the beauty of nature, the faces of your loved ones, or the printed words of a favorite song — as it did for our patient Raymond Byrd

As Dr. Anne L. Coleman from the Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine explained to AARP Times, seeing more clearly also helps people “move more and get more exercise. They can see their pills better and may be more likely to take them and take the right ones. The surgery also improves visual contrast, which decreases the risk of accidental deaths from falls or driving.”

Cataract removal may improve your physical, emotional, and mental health in many ways. If you have been diagnosed with cataracts and are looking for premium cataract surgery and care, schedule an appointment with our office by calling (404) 351-2220 or requesting one online today. Our methods will lead to a more rapid visual recovery, and a chance to get back to a life even more fully lived.