WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease destroys brain cells, which affects an individual’s memory, behaviour, physical abilities and thinking skills. At this present time there is no cure.
HOW DOES ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AFFECT THE EYES?
A person with Alzheimer’s can show symptoms of vision loss and eye health issues such as:
Decreased Contrast Sensitivity
Increased difficulty differentiating between and object and its background, especially at low light levels.
Reduced Visual Fields (Peripheral Vision)
Decrease in Accurate Eye Movements
Difficulties maintaining a visual gaze in one location or following moving objects.
Perceiving objects that are not present.
Due to these effects, a person with Alzheimer’s may have difficulties with:
- Reading and writing
- Eye-head coordination
- Identifying and recognizing familiar objects, places, family and friends
- Distinguishing between and object from its background
- Moving confidently in their own environment
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND THE ROLE OF THE OPTOMETRIST:
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may have a hard time explaining their vision problems to their family or caregiver. To help with this gap in communications, optometrists may use procedures that allow them to collect the required information needed to manage vision problems in patients.
To help patients with Alzheimer’s, we suggest:
- Arranging for regular comprehensive eye exams. This ensures eye health issues are caught and prescriptions for glasses are kept up-to-date.
- Evenly lighting all rooms. Try to eliminate shadows as much as possible.
- Decreasing busy patterns on the walls and floors and using high contrast objects (ex. white plates on a black table)
- Highlighting important objects (ex. handrails) to make them as noticeable as possible.
- Moving slowly around a person with Alzheimer’s since it’s easier for them to follow.
Kniaziew Optometry recommends annual comprehensive eye exams for all seniors age 65 and over. Individuals in this age group are at a higher risk of eye conditions that may affect a person’s vision. Annual comprehensive eye exams and required follow-ups are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).