You may need to set up a meet-and-greet with your local neurologists. Researchers in Seattle have found that people with glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or diabetic retinopathy (DR) have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Increased risk occurred in recent glaucoma diagnoses, established AMD diagnoses and both recent and established DR. While development of AD is not inevitable in these patients, eye doctors should develop their skills in identifying early signs and be ready to refer suspects, the researchers suggest.

In the 3,877 randomly selected patients with an observation total of more than 31,000 patient-years, 792 cases of AD occurred. The study assessed the adjusted hazard ratio for developing probable or possible AD for recent (made within five years) and established (made more than five years ago) diagnoses. The study used data from the Adult Changes in Thought trial, an ongoing prospective cohort study that began in 1994 and has been following patients 65 and older who were dementia-free at enrollment until development of dementia, dropout or death.

Researchers found a 46% higher AD risk in participants with recent glaucoma, a 50% higher risk in participants with established AMD and a 67% and 50% increased risk in participants with recent and established DR, respectively.

The team notes that they evaluated the temporal sequence that starts with ophthalmic conditions followed by AD, not vice-versa. Subsequent studies of ophthalmic diseases in relation to AD may provide important insights in their shared pathological pathways, enabling better techniques to prevent and treat. The authors also hope eye care practitioners become more aware of the possible increased AD risk in certain ophthalmic conditions.

Lee CS, Larson EB, Gibbons LE, et al. Associations between recent and established ophthalmic conditions and risk of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia. August 8, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].