Researchers recently found that objective visual impairment is associated with an increased risk of incident dementia.

This secondary analysis of a prospective, longitudinal cohort study explored the likelihood of dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among 1,061 older women (between 66 and 84 years old) with or without baseline visual impairment.

Of the participants, the team discovered that 19.4% had self-reported visual impairment and 17.2% had objective visual impairment. They added that 4.0% were ultimately classified with probable dementia and 2.6% with MCI that did not progress to dementia.Women with baseline objective visual impairment were more likely to develop dementia, with the greatest risk among women with a visual acuity of 20/100 or worse at baseline, followed by 20/80 or worse and 20/40 or worse. They observed similar findings for MCI, with the greatest risk among women with a baseline visual acuity of 20/100 or worse.

“Research is needed to evaluate the effect of specific ophthalmic interventions on dementia,” the study authors concluded in their paper.

Tran EM, Stefanick ML, Henderson VW, et al. Association of visual impairment with risk of incident dementia in a Women’s Health Initiative population. JAMA Ophthalmol. April 16, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].