Optical professionals already recognize and understand the correlations between ocular health and overall physical well-being, but a new study conducted by the University of Washington and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Institute is now shining light on how having certain common eye conditions can actually increase a person’s chances of an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. The three main ocular conditions in question are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration.
Glaucoma refers to damage of the optic nerve that causes the nerve fibers to deteriorate, creating blind spots and eventually leading to total blindness. People over the age of 40 are especially susceptible, as are people who have a history of glaucoma in their genes, or people who have related conditions affecting the whole body, like diabetes or high blood pressure. The damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed, and the only course of treatment is to prevent further damage through medication or surgery.
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease caused by high blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause significant damage to the blood vessels around the retina, causing the vessels to swell, leak, or close entirely creating a blockage. In some cases, new blood vessels can even grow over the retina. All of these scenarios result in some form of deteriorated vision. The only way to treat diabetic retinopathy and/or to reduce vision loss is through controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, medications, or surgery.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) refers to the loss of central vision caused by damage to the macula, the part of the retina that controls clear central vision. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry, affecting mostly patients over 40. In fact, AMD is the leading cause of loss of vision in people over 50. Dry AMD cannot be formally treated, although some people do claim that certain vitamins and supplements can prevent the condition from getting worse. Wet AMD, however, can, through the use of prescribed medications or laser surgery.
Experts acknowledge that the optic nerve and retina (the two parts of the eye primarily affected by these types of degenerative eye diseases) are both essentially just brain tissue, which is why connections between visual diseases and brain diseases are not altogether unexpected; however, they are anything but subtle. As we move forward into the future, the need for greater communication between ophthalmologists and primary care doctors is even more essential to sustaining patient health. Degenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, are not curable, but early detection can significantly improve a patient’s long-term quality of life. Thankfully, routine eye exams can help ophthalmologists keep an eye out for such types of conditions even before any symptoms present themselves. If you believe you may have any kind of disorder affecting your vision, including any of the three mentioned above, schedule an eye exam with us at Alpine Eye Care as soon as possible. Our ophthalmologists will be able to help you understand exactly what is going on with your vision and health as well as assist in identifing any significant health warnings that may indicate a future Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. If you want to make sure you are doing everything you can for your health, including reducing your risk of suffering from undetected Alzheimer’s, schedule your next eye exam with one of our remarkable eye doctors at Alpine Eye Care as soon as possible by calling us directly at 1.877.733.2020 today.