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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer's, Dementia Not Linked in Older People

Very large study in England looked for links between these diseases closely associated with aging

Nov. 14, 2013 – Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia and the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are all strongly associated with advancing age. A very large study of patients in England has determined, however, that there is no association between having AMD and then developing dementia or AD.

Several previous studies have reported an association between AMD and cognitive impairment, based on mental state examination or word fluency scores.

Demographics of People Admitted to the Hospital With Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Dementia

English national hospital episode statistics (HES), from January 1, 1999, through February 28, 2011

Note: % All refers to all age 50 and older


With Age-Related Macular Degeneration

With Dementia


% All

% Female

% All

% Female


























Associations Between Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer Disease, and Dementia: Record Linkage Study of Hospital Admissions - Tiarnan D. L. Keenan MRCOphth, Raph Goldacre BA, Michael J. Goldacre FFPHM

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132(1):doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.5696

AMD and AD are diseases that share environmental risk factors, including cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and other features such as the depositing of plaques in the brain. But the genetic risk factors for AMD and AD seem to be different, according to the report published by JAMA Ophthalmology, a JAMA Network publication.

Tiarnan D.L. Keenan, M.R.C.Ophth, of the University of Manchester, England, and colleagues examined whether patients admitted to the hospital with AMD were more likely to develop AD or dementia in the following years.

A group of 65,894 patients with AMD was constructed from data in the English National Health Service. A dementia group (168,092 patients) and a reference group (more than 7.7 million people) were assembled in similar ways. Researchers measured the risk of AD or dementia following AMD and the risk of AMD following AD or dementia.


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The study indicates that risk of AD or dementia after AMD was not elevated. However, the study findings indicate that patients in England with dementia may be less likely to receive treatment for AMD and several factors may contribute to this, including that patients with dementia may be less likely to get their eyes examined.

“In conclusion, these data provide evidence that there is no positive association between AMD and dementia or AD. However, people with dementia in England are substantially less likely to undergo treatment for AMD than those without dementia. Potential barriers to care for these vulnerable individuals need to be examined and addressed in the near future,” the study concludes

Editor’s Note: This study was supported by the English National Institute for Health Research and by Fight for Sight.

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