April 11, 2006

Eye ailment tied to cognitive decline

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Worsening of age-related
macular degeneration (AMD), a degenerative eye disorder that is
the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, appears to be
associated with some cognitive impairment, according to a
report by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group


Several small studies have identified a link between AMD
and cognitive impairment, Dr. Traci E. Clemons, at the EMMES
Corporation in Rockville, Maryland, and the AREDS group members
comment in their paper, published in the Archives of
Ophthalmology for April. Their goal was to investigate this
association within a large sample of patients, many of whom had
advanced AMD.

The 2946 subjects ages 61 to 88 years underwent tests to
assess the severity of AMD. Results showed that 23 percent were
classified as category 1 AMD (no macular abnormality), 29
percent with AMD category 2, 26 percent with AMD category 3,
and 22 percent as AMD category 4 (advanced AMD in at least one

According to a battery of six neuropsychological tests that
the subjects completed, mean cognitive function scores
significantly decreased with increased macular abnormality.

However, after adjusting for age, gender, education,
smoking, diabetes, hypertension, use of cholesterol-lowering
drugs and antioxidants, the association remained significant
only for two of the tests -- the Modified Mini-Mental State
Examination (3MS) and Logical Memory Part I test.

It has been suggested that an association is logical
because AMD and cognitive impairment are both chronic
neurodegenerative disorders affecting persons as they age, the
AREDS group notes. However, they also acknowledge that worse
vision affects daily functioning and social interaction, and
that the resulting predisposition to depression and social
isolation could indirectly exacerbate cognitive impairment.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology April, 2006.