A new study from Taiwan shows that people with a specific type of glaucoma called normal-tension glaucoma may have a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Previous studies have produced mixed results between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s, so researchers focused on this specific type of eye disease.
A glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, the tissue that connects the eye to the brain. Glaucoma generally occurs when the pressure inside the eye becomes too high. This increased pressure can damage the optic nerve, eventually causing vision loss. However, with normal-tension glaucoma, also known as low-tension glaucoma, damage occurs to the optic nerve even though the eye pressure is in a normal range.
For the study, researchers compared the incidence of Alzheimer’s in 15,317 people with normal-tension glaucoma and 61,268 age- and gender-matched people without glaucoma.
After adjusting for hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, and stroke, researchers found that people with normal-tension glaucoma were 52 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those without glaucoma. Older females with a history of stroke had the highest incidence. Researchers also noted that the use of glaucoma eye drops did not protect against Alzheimer’s disease or increase the risk.
Researchers believe that not everyone with normal-tension glaucoma will develop Alzheimer’s disease, but this study goes to show how there should be Alzheimer’s screening for at-risk patients. The two conditions are similar in that they both occur when nerve cells deteriorate and die, a neurodegeneration process.
In Alzheimer’s, it affects the nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for cognition and memory. In glaucoma, neurodegeneration affects the retinal ganglion cells in the optic nerve, which can cause blindness over time.
Maintaining Brain and Eye Health
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As this research proves, it is vital to ensure vision is kept as healthy as possible as you age, as it can affect more than just the eyes. One of the primary causes of age-related vision loss is low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. These natural pigments have been shown to protect the eye from oxidative damage caused by ultraviolet light and environmental factors.
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