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Age-related visual impairments and cognitive decline

A study has shown that there is an association between age-related visual impairment and cognitive function. Looking at a large elderly Malay population in Singapore, Ong et. al. found that individuals with visual impairment were more likely to have cognitive dysfunction after controlling for age, sex, education, and socioeconomic conditions. Specifically, visual impairments due to cataracts as well as moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy were associated most strongly with cognitive decline. No significant relationships were found regarding age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. While the specific mechanisms behind these associations were not investigated, several theories have been suggested. Poor vision may cause an individual to perform fewer mental and physical activities, and prior research has shown that these changes heighten the risk of cognitive decline.  Additionally, age-related changes may involve a general decline in central nervous system function, which may confound the associations between visual impairment and cognitive dysfunction that were discovered. These researchers have established a promising connection in elderly Asian Malay individuals, in whom cognitive impairment is likely to increase substantially in the near future with rapidly aging populations. Perhaps subsequent studies will reveal more evidence suggesting the relationship between visual impairment and cognitive decline in broader populations.

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