THURSDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- People who have mild
vascular disease that damages the eyes' retinas are more likely to
have vascular disease in the brain that causes thinking and memory
problems, new research indicates.
The study included 511 women with an average age of 69 whose
thinking and memory skills were tested every year for 10 years. The
women's eyes were tested about four years into the study, and they
underwent brain scans about eight years into the study.
On average, the 39 women with retina damage (retinopathy) had
lower scores on the cognitive tests than those without retinopathy.
The eye damage in these women was not serious enough to cause
The brains of women with retinopathy also had more areas with
damaged blood vessels than those without retinopathy.
The findings held true even after the researchers accounted for
high blood pressure and diabetes, which can be factors in vascular
issues in the eyes and brain, the researchers said.
"Problems with the tiny blood vessels in the eye may be a sign that there are also problems with the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to cognitive problems," study author Mary Haan, of the University of California, San Francisco, said in a news release. "This could be very useful if a simple eye screening could give us an early indication that people might be at risk of problems with their brain health."
Although the study, which appears in the March 14 online issue
Neurology, showed an association between vascular disease in the eyes and memory problems, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
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