Vision Center is funded by our readers. We may earn commissions if you purchase something via one of our links.
In this article
Dementia describes a variety of conditions related to mental impairment. It includes memory loss, inability to think clearly and reason, and decision-making.
Alzheimer’s is the most well-known form of dementia but is by no means the only disease under this umbrella.
In most cases, dementia interferes with someone’s ability to function day-to-day. It tends to affect older adults. But younger people are not immune to developing dementia. Despite its prevalence in the older community, it is not a normal part of aging.
Dementia is more than just slight memory lapses and often involves emotional and physical changes, as well. This is especially true in its advanced stages.
People with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia struggle with a variety of secondary health issues, including vision problems.
Both dementia and vision loss are disorienting. When the two occur simultaneously, daily life becomes an emotional and physical challenge.
Declining vision is common among older adults. As we age, our vision tends to be less sharp than it once was. This is true even for people who have no serious vision health concerns.
Low vision, which may result from macular degeneration, doesn’t mean you'll go blind. However, low vision and dementia combined make even simple tasks difficult.
It is especially challenging for someone with dementia to experience normal vision decline or more serious issues. Routine activities and communication can become extremely difficult.
A person’s environment becomes frustrating and their daily life a nightmare when their brain is unable to process what they see. Low vision challenges are also stressful for the loved ones of someone with dementia.
The combination of dementia and vision loss leads to:
Both dementia and low vision create challenges for patients and their loved ones. This includes an increased risk of accidents and injuries.
Being proactive about creating a safe, comfortable environment prevents many common issues that arise in dementia patients with low vision.
There are many causes of vision impairment and vision loss. This is especially true as you age or experience macular degeneration.
However, people with dementia have a heightened risk of vision loss.
In some cases, these are vision issues anyone can experience (such as impaired vision from cataracts), but the person with dementia is unable to communicate vision changes. The problem is advanced before other people recognize an issue.
There are also changes in vision that are related to dementia but not directly to eye health.
Dementia affects the part of the brain responsible for managing visual input. Their eyes are otherwise healthy, but the message sent from the eye is misinterpreted by the unhealthy brain.
The two most common problems dementia patients have with vision include:
Different types of dementia affect eye health and sight loss in different ways. People with dementia might experience:
Being able to see involves several stages, beginning with the eye. What the eye sees must be properly interpreted by the brain. Memories, thoughts, and other senses also play a role.
Someone with perfect eye health could experience problems if their brain misinterprets information. If a person’s brain is affected by dementia, it affects exactly what they think they see. The problem worsens when there are problems with visual impairment and health.
Vision loss exacerbates many common symptoms of dementia.
For example, common dementia symptoms of dementia like disorientation are worse when someone has low vision. This is true whether there are problems with their eyes or if dementia is causing their visual problems.
Profound disorientation can cause a person significant emotional distress and lead to injury to themselves and others.
Everyday tasks become challenging and might be the starting point of emotional or behavioral issues for someone with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other issues.
When someone with dementia experiences vision loss, they are at greater risk of:
A person with dementia experiences massive disruptions in their life.
Most dementia-related diseases change every aspect of someone’s day-to-day existence. Visual impairment compounds these problems and makes it more difficult to treat and manage both issues.
Many things can be done to support people with low vision and vision impairment who also struggle with dementia. For example:
In this article
All Vision Center content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed optometrist to ensure the information is factual and meets industry standards.
We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from recent scientific research, scholarly articles, textbooks, government agencies, optometry websites, and medical journals.
All about Vision Center