Making The Connection: Alzheimer’s And Eye Health

An older man shows an older woman a photograph of a young person

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain condition that gradually impairs thinking and memory. But what many people don’t realize is that this degenerative neural disease, and other forms of dementia, can also cause vision problems. Learning more about the connection between Alzheimer’s or dementia and vision problems can help you better understand why regular routine eye examinations are especially important after an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.

The Link Between The Eyes And The Brain

The retina and optic nerve of the eyes are made up of the same tissue and material as the brain. In fact, the retina and optic nerve are actually small amounts of brain tissue that extend out of the central brain area. Given that the same material is present in the brain and the eyes, the same diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, can affect the eyes.

How Alzheimer’s May Damage The Eyes

Alzheimer’s occurs when proteins in the brain start to build up. Over time, the abnormal build-up of proteins will slowly start to kill the cells of the brain. When the brain cells are killed, it results in irreversible damage to the neurons.

Neurons are specialized cells that are responsible for transmitting commands from the brain that allow you to do everything from eating and speaking to talking and breathing. If the neurons become damaged, you start to experience difficulty performing everyday actions and functions. The specific issues you struggle with will depend upon which area of the brain is damaged from the protein build-up.

Because the retina and optic nerve are made up of brain tissue, the proteins that build up in the brain can build up in the eyes. The protein build-up damages the retina and optic nerve, which results in a number of vision problems.

Some of the vision problems people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may experience include:

  • Inability to see near or far—sudden changes in vision
  • Difficulties with depth perception
  • Trouble with spatial relationships
  • Difficulty determining contrast in colors and textures
  • Difficulty following moving objects
  • Problems with reading
  • Vision loss

Preserve Your Eye Health 

The eye care specialists at Florida Eye Specialists have experience providing specialty care to patients with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. When a patient experiences vision problems, our team of eye care specialists can help determine whether the problems are being caused by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia or by similar vision impairments like cataracts or glaucoma. If vision problems have not occurred, our team of eye care specialists can provide continuing routine eye care, which can help in the early detection and treatment of various vision problems.

Call our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced eye care specialists.