There are a number of key warning signs for dementia, with the main one being forgetfulness, but having problems with sight can also be considered a red flag for the condition
Being forgetful, thinking slower, forgetting the name of a close family member or friend and sight loss can be put down to old age, but they may also be signs of dementia.
And when it comes to problems with the eyes, there is a little-known effect on our sight which can come from having the condition – and it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with our actual eyes. Sight loss could be caused by problems with our brains rather than in the eyes themselves and according to Roshni Patel, qualified optometrist and Head of Professional Services at Lenstore, any degradation in how we see could be a red flag.
According to the Daily Express, Roshni explained: “Dementia and sight loss both become more common the older you get. Around one in nine people over the age of 60 are living with sight loss, and around one in 11 people in this age bracket are living with dementia. But people with dementia can also have visual problems caused by the brain, even if their eyes are still healthy.”
So having a problem with sight can be because of dementia as it is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. It is estimated that there are nearly a million (994,000) people in the UK who are living with dementia, and this number is increasing because people are living for longer.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal ageing. Alongside forgetfulness, sight problems, slower thinking speed, and a less social nature are also considered key signs of dementia.
Dementia symptoms are progressive, which means that the signs of cognitive impairment start out slowly and gradually get worse, leading to dementia. Roshni said: ““Dementia can cause a variety of changes in the brain, including how the brain processes the information the eyes bring in and how the eyes see.
“It can be difficult to tell the difference between sight-loss symptoms and dementia, as conditions can be confused or mistaken for the effect of the other. That’s why it’s important that someone with dementia has their sight examined regularly, as eye tests can identify eye conditions that may cause sight-loss problems without early treatment.”
Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with memory, attention, communication, reasoning, judgment, problem solving – and their vision – which are more serious than you’d expect for their age.
Roshni has suggested that there are a number of things that can be done to help someone suffering from both sight loss and dementia, and she said: “Clean their glasses regularly and ensure they’re the right prescription. To help make the most of their vision, it’s important to take good care of their eyes by making sure glasses are clean and of the correct prescription for the individual.”
She added: “Adapting the person’s environment is another step we can take to aid those suffering from an eye condition and dementia, from improving lighting around the house, using contrasting colours to ensure things are easy to differentiate, and keeping areas familiar and clean.” And importantly, she said you should ensure the person has regular check-ups with their GP and optometrist, which will help support the independence and confidence of an individual.