Written By Despina
Contributing Optometrist

It’s not just myopia incidence that is booming. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be nearly 115 million people with dementia worldwide. Another startling fact, that many would like, once again, to blame on genetics.

Each and every one of you will, at some stage, be affected by some form of dementia, be it a parent, grandparent, friend, neighbour, or even you. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is the leading cause of death among adults over age 65. This is higher than heart disease and stroke.

Why the sharp increase in incidence? No, our genes are not suddenly changing, and yes, it can partly be put down to the aging population. But I think we all know the main culprit: everything we eat and drink every day of our lives. That is, the environmental toxins we are fed, in the form if pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives, which penetrate every single level of the food chain. Genetics do play a part too: as in myopia, if you are genetically predisposed to the disease, the toxin will increase the risk dramatically. But it is not genes alone that are causing it. It’s the same with Parkinson’s disease and cancer, but that’s a different can of worms.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a large number of pathological changes affecting the brain, the eye itself and the visual pathway, resulting in various visual signs and symptoms:

  • changes in the visual cortex
  • loss of lens elasticity
  • thinning of the retina in the nerve fibre layer
  • decline in the number of nerve fibres in the optic nerve

The above changes affect sharpness of vision, colour vision, visual fields, depth percepton, contrast sensitivity, pupil dilation, fixation, eye movements, reading ability, eye-head coordination, object recognition, and may cause visual hallucinations.

What makes things even more difficult, both for the patient and their carers, is that Alzheimer’s sufferers are less likely to be able to describe their visual problems effectively, and are more likely to tolerate the visual defects such as myopia and presbyopia.

And this is just the visual aspect of the disease. It affects every aspect of the person’s life, from walking to talking to going to the toilet, until, eventually all the organs of the body shut down. The end can be devastating for all involved.

And now back to the cause. Those chemicals, another multi-billion dollar industry. And how do we treat Alzheimer’s? You guessed it, with medication, yet another multi-billion dollar industry. A familiar tune by now, I know, that again they are getting away with.