Evidence is emerging that undergoing cataract surgery can lower your risk of dementia.
Patients who have such surgery lower their risk of dementia by 30%, according to a recent study published in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The benefit of the surgery lasted for at least 10 years and was specifically associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine conducted an observational study at Kaiser Permanente Washington. They originally included more than 5,000 participants age 65 or older and then followed up with more than 3,000 of the subjects.
The researchers found that among those diagnosed with a cataract or glaucoma who originally did not have dementia, participants who underwent cataract surgery in either eye were about 30% less likely to develop any form of dementia for at least a decade following the procedure.
In a press release, lead researcher Dr. Cecilia Lee, associate professor and Klorfine Family Endowed Chair in ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says:
“This kind of evidence is as good as it gets in epidemiology. This is really exciting because no other medical intervention has shown such a strong association with lessening dementia risk in older individuals.”
Although the researchers did not discover why cataract surgery is associated with reduced dementia risk, they hypothesized that those who have the surgery may receive higher quality sensory input after it. That, in turn, may help lower the risk of dementia.
Lee offered another hypothesis for why cataract surgery is linked with reduced dementia diagnosis: People who have cataract surgery are able to get more blue light. In the press release, she says:
“Some special cells in the retina are associated with cognition and regulate sleep cycles, and these cells respond well to blue light. Cataracts specifically block blue light, and cataract surgery could reactivate those cells.”
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