One of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease is trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships. As the disease progresses, it affects eyesight even more, to the point that it causes safety concerns for these patients.

Eye Conditions May Show Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s

In July of 2018, a study was published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Journal that glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy (DR) are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Other studies have shown that these three eye disorders have been associated with dementia because they have shared characteristics including characteristic amyloid β deposits, chronic microvascular insults, and progressive neuro-degeneration.

In addition to the eye disorders that Alzheimer’s patients may already have, there are other common eyesight problems that they may experience as their condition worsens. 

Common Visual Deficit Problems in Alzheimer’s Patients

There are 5 main areas of visual deficit that can cause problems in Alzheimer’s patients. These include:

1. Motion Detection

Some patients have a hard time detecting motion. They may see the world more as still photos rather than on-going movements. This makes it difficult for them to follow an object that is moving. For that reason, watching television or anything that has fast motions can be uncomfortable.

2. Poor Peripheral Vision

As people age, they will have a more narrow field of vision. Alzheimer’s patients have an even more narrow field of vision. It could make it difficult for them to see anything to the side of them while looking forward. This can cause them to run into things or have a hard time getting out of the way if someone is coming towards them.

3. Depth Perception

An Alzheimer’s patient will struggle to judge how far away things are. It can also cause them to see three-dimensional objects as flat objects.

4. Difficulty Seeing Colors

While it is normal for colors to dimish as a person grows older, an Alzheimer’s patient will have even more difficulty seeing colors. This is particularly true of colors that are in the blue/violet range.

5. Unable to Distinguish Colors

Not only can they have a hard time seeing colors, but they can also struggle to distinguish between similar colors. This can make it difficult for them to see objects that are surrounded by colors that are similar.

Facial and Object Recognition

One of the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease is that patients have a hard time recognizing people they love or objects. Common visual mistakes they make include:

1. Unable to Identify Objects or People

Parts of the brain become damaged due to the disease, which can make it difficult for them to identify people or objects.

2. Distortion of Reality

As the disease progresses, a patient can have a difficult time determining reality. They may see a face in a patterned curtain or think something that is shiny is actually wet.

3. Misperception

Damage to the eyes from diseases like glaucoma or cataracts can cause them to struggle to perceive the world. They may think their own reflection in a mirror is an intruder or a shadow on the ground as a hole in the ground.

It’s important to understand how Alzheimer’s affects eyesight. It could be an early warning sign for you or someone you love.

Deborah Moon, OD

Deborah Moon, OD

Dr. Deborah Moon provides eye health and wellness exams for patients of all ages. She is therapeutically licensed to treat all diseases of the eye, treat eye injury, and specializes in glaucoma treatment, difficult contact lens fitting, and LASIK management. She believes in formulating a customized treatment approach designed for each individual patient depending on the patient's needs and symptoms. As a proponent of the importance of healthy lifestyle and nutrition for good vision and eye health, she coordinates her patients' care with their holistic and medical practitioners to provide the best integrative medicine approach. read more...