Tuesday, March 8

Could cataract surgery protect against dementia?

Is it possible that cataract surgery can protect you from dementia?

Cataract surgery has become extremely safe and commonplace in the United States over the last few decades. An estimated two million Americans, largely seniors, undergo this treatment each year. By 2050, the population may have doubled, or perhaps tripled.

Even though many of us think that cataract surgery only helps us see better, new research shows that it may also help us think better and avoid dementia.


According to research, there is a link between eyesight loss and dementia.

Recent studies have discovered a relationship between dementia and age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetes-related eye illness. In one study, elderly people whose vision deteriorated during an eight-year period had a higher chance of dementia.

So, may preventing or correcting vision loss help to lessen dementia risk? Previous research has yielded conflicting results. According to a 2015 study, cataract surgery is connected to a lower risk of dementia in the future. The results of a 2018 study found no benefit in terms of dementia risk, but there was a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment. The disparities in findings could be explained by differences in study populations and techniques, particularly in the diagnosis of dementia.

There's new evidence that cataract surgery can help people avoid dementia.

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that removing cataracts may lower your risk of dementia. It looks into how cataract surgery affects the risk of dementia over time in over 3,000 older people with cataracts or glaucoma. At the start of the trial, no one had dementia.


According to the research,

People who had cataract surgery had a 29% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.

Whether glaucoma patients had surgery or not, the risk of dementia was the same. (It's worth noting that glaucoma surgery doesn't help you see again.)

Because of differences in health or access to health care, the study's findings were not likely to be caused by those things. Also, other dementia risk factors were not likely to have been the cause. The findings remained the same once these variables were taken into account.

The researchers point out that while the findings are compelling, they must be confirmed by others. Future research should involve a more varied population: the majority of study participants were white, and they all had easy access to complete health care, including cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery protects brain health for what reasons?

It didn't occur to me that there was a relationship. In reality, this new study makes no attempt to determine why cataract surgery would lower the risk of dementia. The following are examples of previous theories:

The brain's ability to operate is harmed by less sensory input. The sensory deprivation hypothesis (also known as the "use it or lose it" hypothesis) states that less sensory input of any kind leads to less brain stimulation and, as a result, a loss of brain function. At least one study has found that after cataract surgery, brain function and appearance on MRI scans improve.

People with cataracts may limit their mental and physical activities due to their inability to see clearly. According to studies, people who don't get enough exercise and don't get enough social interaction have a higher risk of dementia.

Cataract-related vision loss, along with other age-related problems, can lead to depression, which can increase the risk of dementia.

It could be a combination of these elements, as well as others. The truth is that we don't yet understand why cataract surgery may lower the incidence of dementia.

The following are some additional advantages of cataract surgery:

Imagine being able to restore impaired or distorted vision, which is especially bothersome at night for many cataract patients. Even better, cataract surgery can help you keep your vision before it deteriorates significantly. Many things can be done with restored vision, which makes life better and allows for more freedom.

Cataract surgery may also help with depression symptoms and may possibly extend one's life. It has also been reported in other research that it may lessen the risk of falling, which is a significant benefit for older people. A fall might result in broken hips or spines, loss of freedom, or even death.

There are several areas where cataract surgery is not available.

Despite how prevalent cataract surgery is, it's important to remember that it isn't available in every country. Millions of individuals in resource-poor countries go blind from preventable causes. If cataract surgery can enhance eyesight while also lowering the risk of dementia and providing other health advantages, it is even more critical that treatment be made available to all people.


Talk to an eye doctor about treatment options if you're having visual problems due to cataracts or another cause. Cataract surgery, like any other procedure, comes with risks and advantages. As the risks of cataract surgery have gone down, the list of benefits seems to be growing.

Contribution: Harvard Health
No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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