Does dementia cause vision problems? (3 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does dementia cause vision problems?” and explores what dementia is, its symptoms, causes, and types and the impact of the disease on vision to help understand the answer. 

Does dementia cause vision problems?

Yes, dementia does cause vision problems. Because dementia affects the regions of the brain that handle visual input from the eyes, people with dementia may experience visual impairments. 

Dementia causes vision problems in the following 3 ways –

  • The field of vision narrows.
  • There is a loss of depth perception.
  • Unexpected behavioural changes result from eyesight alterations.

These 3 ways in which dementia causes vision problems will be discussed in further detail below after taking an in-depth look at dementia, its symptoms, cause and types. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a phrase that refers to a set of symptoms that impact your memory, reasoning, and social abilities to the point that they interfere with your regular activities. Dementia isn’t caused by a single disease, but it can be caused by a number of them.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, although it can be caused by a variety of factors. Memory loss isn’t always a marker of dementia, however, it is generally one of the first symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent cause of progressive dementia in older people, although dementia can also be caused by a variety of other conditions. Some dementia symptoms may be reversible, depending on the reason.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Symptoms of dementia vary depending on the aetiology, however, some frequent ones include –

Cognitive symptoms.

  • Someone else generally notices your memory loss.
  • Finding it difficult to communicate or find the right words
  • Visual and spatial difficulties, such as getting lost while driving, are common.
  • Reasoning- or problem-solving difficulties
  • Complicated tasks are difficult to handle.
  • Planning and arranging are difficult.
  • Coordination and motor functions problems
  • Perplexity and disorientation

Psychological symptoms.

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

What are the causes of dementia?

Damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain causes dementia. Dementia affects people differently and causes distinct symptoms depending on which part of the brain is destroyed.

Dementias are frequently classified according to what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the afflicted brain region. 

Some disorders, such as those caused by pharmaceutical reactions or vitamin shortages, resemble dementias and may improve with therapy.

What are the different types of dementia? 

The following are examples of progressive dementias that are not reversible –

Alzheimer’s disease. 

The most prevalent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Although not all causes of Alzheimer’s disease are known, doctors do know that abnormalities in three genes, which may be handed on from parent to child, are linked to a tiny number of cases. 

While numerous genes are likely implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, apolipoprotein E4 is one key gene that raises risk (APOE). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have plaques and tangles in their brains. 

Plaques are fibrous tangles made up of tau protein, while tangles are clusters of a protein called beta-amyloid. These aggregates are considered to harm healthy neurons and the fibres that link them.

Vascular dementia. 

Damage to the arteries that carry blood to the brain causes this sort of dementia. Blood artery abnormalities can lead to strokes or have other effects on the brain, such as harming the white matter fibres.

Problem-solving problems, sluggish thinking, and a loss of concentration and organisation are the most prevalent symptoms of vascular dementia. These are usually more visible than memory loss.

Lewy body dementia. 

Lewy bodies are aberrant balloon-like protein aggregates discovered in the brains of persons suffering from Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. One of the most frequent kinds of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Acting out one’s dreams while sleeping, seeing things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations), and issues with focus and attention are all common indicators and symptoms. Uncoordinated or sluggish movement, tremors, and stiffness are some of the other symptoms (parkinsonism).

Frontotemporal dementia. 

The destruction of nerve cells and their connections in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain characterises this category of illnesses. 

These are the parts of the brain that are linked to personality, conduct, and language. Behaviour, personality, thinking, judgement, language, and mobility are all affected by common symptoms.

Mixed dementia. 

Many persons with dementia aged 80 and up had a mix of causes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia, according to autopsy investigations of their brains. 

Mixed dementia is the subject of continuing research to see how it impacts symptoms and treatments.

What are these 3 ways in which dementia causes vision problems?

The field of vision narrows.

By the time we’re 75 years old, the normal changes related to ageing reduce our normal peripheral vision a little bit, so we’re not able to see and notice as much as we would when we were younger.

When someone has dementia, their field of vision narrows to about 12 inches around. It’s like wearing binoculars. If you were to use binoculars and try to move around normally, it would be very difficult.

There is a loss of depth perception.

As dementia advances, the brain may find that the information coming in through two eyes is too overwhelming. So, it effectively shuts down the information coming from one eye – at that point, the person with dementia could basically be seeing through one eye.

That means they lose depth perception and can’t tell if something is two-dimensional or three-dimensional. 

This makes it hard for people suffering from dementia to know if something is a pattern on the carpet or an object on the floor, a real apple or a picture of an apple, or what the chair seat’s height is.

Unexpected behavioural changes result from eyesight alterations.

These changes in vision can cause someone to do things that seem strange to us. Someone might seem like they’re picking at the air, but they’re actually trying to turn off the ceiling light because it seems much closer than it really is.

Because they don’t have depth perception, they don’t know how far away the light really is. A person with dementia might also bend over slightly and start picking at the air around waist level.

That looks strange to us, but they could be trying to pick something up from the floor. They just don’t have depth perception to know that the floor is still a couple of feet away.

This type of behaviour might look very strange to us, but individuals with dementia are just responding to the world as they see it and it makes complete sense to them.

How to assist someone with vision problems caused by dementia?

  • Good eye care (maximising one’s vision, getting frequent eye exams, and ensuring that one’s glasses are current, clean, and proper).
  • Changing the surroundings of the individual, such as enhancing lighting, employing contrasting colours, and keeping locations familiar and clutter-free.
  • Improving communication, such as catching someone’s attention before speaking to them, introducing oneself, or letting them know what’s going on (e.g., ‘I’m leaving the room now).
  • Technology and equipment like automatic lights or audio labels.
  • Seeking expert help, such as from vision rehabilitation specialists or occupational therapists.
  • Concentrating on what the person can do and establishing plans based on that knowledge.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does dementia cause vision problems?” and reviewed what dementia means, its symptoms, causes, and types and the impact of the disease on vision to help determine if dementia causes vision problems. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Sight and hearing loss with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/sight-hearing-loss#:~:text=However%2C%20people%20with%20dementia%20can,problems%2C%20but%20have%20healthy%20eyes.

Green, L. A. Eye health and dementia: Is there a link? (2021, September 16). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/eye-health-and-dementia-is-there-a-link

DEMENTIA AND EYESIGHT: 3 COMMON CHANGES AND BEHAVIORS. DailyCaring Editorial Team. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dailycaring.com/dementia-and-eyesight-an-expert-explains-common-changes-and-behaviors-video/

Cappon, D. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Eyesight: Symptoms and How to Help. (2021, September 14). Retrieved from https://www.hebrewseniorlife.org/blog/dementia-alzheimers-and-eyesight-symptoms-and-how-help

Alzheimer’s & Eye Sight: Is There a Connection? Kadrmas Eye Care New England. (2018, May 6). Retrieved from http://www.kadrmaseyecare.com/eye-health–care-blog/alzheimers-eye-sight-is-there-a-connection-alzheimers-brain-awareness-month

Rauch, K. Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and the Eye. (2019, May 23). Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/alzheimers-disease-dementia-eye

Paik, JS., Ha, M., Jung, Y.H. et al. Low vision and the risk of dementia: a nationwide population-based cohort study. Sci Rep 10, 9109 (2020). Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66002-z

Ellison, J. M. A Form of Dementia that Affects Vision: Posterior Cortical Atrophy. (2021, July 9). Retrieved from https://www.brightfocus.org/alzheimers/article/form-dementia-affects-vision-posterior-cortical-atrophy

Dementia and sensory loss: Sight loss.  Social Care Institute for Excellence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/living-with-dementia/sensory-loss/sight-loss.asp

Dementia and sight loss. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/dementia-and-sight-loss

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