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Can Cataract Surgery Prevent Dementia?

Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure that removes cataracts, the cloudy formations on the eye’s lens that impair vision.

Now, researchers are discovering that vision loss may be linked to a higher rate of dementia and suggest that restoring clear vision (through cataract surgery, for example) may reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Is There a Correlation Between Cataracts and Dementia?

More than half of those 80 or older have had at least one cataract. Many people in this age range also have dementia, a decline in cognitive functioning.

But is there a connection between these two seemingly unrelated conditions?

Recent studies suggest that, yes, there could be a link. One 15-year study found that patients with age-related vision problems, including cataracts, had a higher incidence of dementia.

The 2021 study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, followed 12,000 subjects aged 55-73. When compared to patients with healthy vision, cataract patients had an 11% higher incidence of dementia.

Can Cataract Surgery Prevent Dementia?

Can sight-saving cataract surgery reduce your risk of dementia? It certainly looks promising!

A 2022 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that removing cataracts was “significantly associated with a lower risk of dementia development.” In fact, patients who had undergone cataract surgery had a 29% lower rate of dementia.

In addition, MRI scans have shown greater brain activity following cataract surgery.

How Can Vision Loss Cause Dementia?

Scientists studying the link between vision loss and dementia suspect that vision loss negatively impacts the brain. They theorize that the more visual information we receive, the more active our brains are, and brain activity may be able to fend off dementia.

For this reason, by restoring clear vision, cataract surgery may stimulate the brain and prevent cognitive decline.

There could be an emotional and social dimension to cognitive decline as well. People who suffer from significant vision loss often feel isolated. They may feel discouraged by their inability to recognize faces or perform everyday tasks, and may avoid social interactions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social isolation raises the risk of developing dementia by 50%.

If you have cataracts and you feel your quality of life is affected, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry in Niagara-on-the-Lake without delay. We’ll answer your questions about cataract surgery and ensure you receive optimal treatment.

Q&A With Our Optometrist

How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is a short 30-40 minute procedure that replaces your cloudy, natural lens with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). First, the eye surgeon makes a hole in the cloudy lens and breaks it into tiny pieces. Next, the eye surgeon places the new clear lens onto the eye. You’ll be conscious throughout the surgery. The surgery is safe, effective and painless.

Is cataract surgery always successful?

Cataract surgery is highly successful, with a 99% success rate. Complications from cataract surgery are very rare.

Dr. Kimberlee Robertson-Woods OD, BSc

  • McMaster University – Faculty of Health Sciences. Dr. Kim Robertson-Woods has been appointed to the rank of Assistant Clinical Professor
  • Department of Family Medicine Michael DeGroote School of Medicine
  • Ocular Nutrition Society Member
  • College of Optometrists in Vision Development (Canadian and International) Member

Dr. Kimberlee Robertson-Woods has provided optometric care in the Niagara region for over 20 years. She has shared space with Ophthalmologist Dr. George Beiko at the Niagara Health Centre, in St. Catharines. In earning her various degrees, Dr. Robertson-Woods attended university for over ten years. She initially enrolled in a general Arts and Science program at the University of Toronto. Prior to attending the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry, she obtained her undergraduate science degree from the University of Guelph through the college of Physical and Engineering Sciences. She received her Doctor of Optometry Degree from the University of Waterloo and has received certification for the treatment and management of ocular disease. In addition, Dr. Robertson-Woods has received numerous academic awards and has been on the Dean’s Honor List every semester for both her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry Degrees. While in Waterloo, she was a teaching assistant for both the School of Optometry and the Department of Biology, teaching students and conducting labs for physical optics, embryology and histology. During her studies, Dr. Robertson-Woods completed two externships in ocular disease and therapeutics at Omega Tertiary Eye-Care Centres in Alabama. While there she participated in advanced aspects of therapeutic eye care, including Cataract, Glaucoma, Retinal and Extra-ocular muscle surgeries and management. She also studied at a surgery centre specializing in only vitreo-retinal surgical procedures, and has experience in ultrasonic imaging (A and B scans), intravenous fluorescein angiography and retinal tomography. She continually strives to learn and is currently working towards her Fellowship in Neuro-Sensory training, Developmental and Behavioral Optometry. Dr. Robertson-Woods has also acted as a consulting Optometrist at LASIK Centres of America, and has been an Associate with Dr. James Agate in Grimsby. Dr. Robertson-Woods is an active member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, The Ontario Association of Optometrists, the College of Optometrists of Ontario, the Niagara Society of Optometrists, the Ocular Nutrition Society and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. She has acted as a proctor for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry through the Canadian Examiners in Optometry, for Optometrists to become licensed to practice in Canada. Dr. Robertson-Woods primary areas of interest are pathological states of the eye and ocular adnexa; pediatric optometry, developmental and behavioral optometry, visual rehabilitation, nutrition and sports training; and the ocular health concerns of the aging. Upon graduation, she was presented with the William Feinbloom Low Vision Award “in recognition of the graduating student who, by study, interest and performance, has demonstrated aptitude in the clinical care of Low Vision patients”. She enjoys educating the public through her clinics as well as through community based public speaking forums. Her office and her services were utilized as a rotation site to teach fourth year University of Waterloo Interns different aspects of primary eye care practice. She is involved in providing eye care for the Third World and has conducted and managed two eye care clinics in impoverished areas of Central America.