Patients of mild Alzhiemer’s showed improved cognitive ability, mood and sleep patterns, especially after cataract surgery improved their vision.
This is the first ever study to assess whether cataract surgery could benefit Alzheimer’s patients. Earlier research had shown that poor vision was related to impaired mood and thinking skills in older people.
Thirty-eight patients, with an average age of 85 years, all exhibiting mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the study led by Brigitte Girard’s at the Tenon Hospital, Paris.
They had debilitating cataract in at least one eye and were appropriately treated with standard cataract surgery and implantation of intraocular lenses, which replace the eyes’ natural lenses in order to provide vision correction, according to a Tenon Hospital statement.
After surgery, distance and near vision improved dramatically in all but one of the Alzheimer’s patients.
Cognitive status, the ability to perceive, understand and respond appropriately to one’s surroundings, improved in 25 percent of patients.
Depression was relieved in many of them, and the level of improvement was similar to what commonly occurs after cataract surgery in elderly people who do not have dementia.
No changes were found in patients’ level of autonomy, that is, their ability to function independently.
Sleep patterns improved and night time behavior problems decreased in most study patients.
Other studies have shown that when cataracts are removed, levels of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin become normalized.
“We wanted to learn whether significant vision improvement would result in positive mood and behaviour changes, or might instead upset these patients’ fragile coping strategies,” said Girard.
These findings were presented at the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology this month in Orlando, US.