March 14, 2012

Eye Damage Means Brain Damage

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Vascular disease in the eye could mean higher chance of brain damage

(dailyRx News) If you have problems with your eyes, you may have problems with your brain. Vascular disease, a condition effecting the blood vessels, could be linked between the brain and the eye.

Researchers found that women with vascular damage in the retina, called retinopathy, were more likely to have higher amounts of vascular damage in the brain as well. Those with retinopathy were also more likely to score lower on cogitative memory and thinking tests.

"Ask your doctor about risk factors for vascular damage."

"Problems with the tiny blood vessels in the eye may be a sign that there are also problems with the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to cognitive problems," said study author Mary Haan, DrPH, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco. "This could be very useful if a simple eye screening could give us an early indication that people might be at risk of problems with their brain health and functioning."

Five-hundred and fifty women with an average age of 69 years old participated in the study. They took cognitive tests for thinking and memory skills every year for up to 10 years. Eye health was tested 4 years into the study, and the women had brain scans at year 8.

Thirty-nine of the women had retinopathy. These women were also more likely to have lower scores on the cognitive tests and show more areas of the brain with vascular damage. Forty-seven percent more of the brain showed vascular damage in women with retinopathy. In the parietal lobe, a section of the brain highly related to the visual system, 68% larger areas of damage were shown.

The results maintained validity even after being adjusted for blood pressure and diabetes - which are also factors in vascular damage in the eye and brain.

Interestingly, women with retinopathy tested just as well on visual eye tests as the women with no retinopathy.

The study was published online on March 14th, 2012 in the journal Neurology and was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and the National Institute on Aging.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
March 8, 2012

Last Updated:
March 14, 2012