Visual Impairment May Be a Risk Factor for Incident Dementia

Pavankumar Kamat


September 10, 2021


  • Patients with visual impairment (VI) were more likely to develop incident dementia, with a progressively greater risk observed in those with worse visual acuity.

Why this matters

  • Findings suggest that VI may be a modifiable risk factor for dementia prevention, highlighting the importance of regular vision screening and rehabilitation.

Study design

  • The study included 117,187 dementia-free participants (age, 40-69 years) from the UK Biobank.

  • VI was defined using habitual distance visual acuity worse than 0.3 logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution units in the better-seeing eye.

  • Funding: Fundamental Research Funds of the State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology and others.

Key results

  • Of 117,187 participants, 438 (0.37%) had incident dementia.

  • During a median follow-up of 5.96 years, patients with VI at baseline vs those without were more likely to develop incident dementia (0.87% vs 0.36%; P<.001).

  • The presence of VI was independently associated with an increased risk of incident dementia (adjusted HR [aHR], 1.78; 95% CI, 1.18-2.68; P=.006).

  • A clear trend was seen between the severity of VI and the risk of dementia (Ptrend=.002), where the risk of dementia was greater in those with severe VI (aHR, 3.53; 95% CI, 1.31-9.49; P=.013).


  • Observational design.

  • Study did not evaluate the association between baseline visual acuity and dementia risk.


Zhu Z, Shi D, Liao H, Ha J, Shang X, Huang Y, Zhang X, Jiang Y, Li V, Yu H, Hu W, Wang W, Yang X, He M. Visual Impairment and Risk of Dementia: the UK Biobank Study. Am J Ophthalmol. 2021 Aug 22 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2021.08.010. PMID: 34433084.  View abstract 

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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