New study finds women with damaged retinas may also have problems with thinking and memory skills

Eye health may be related to brain health

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A new study finds people with diseases that damage their retinas may be more likely to have problems with thinking and memory skills.

Problems with tiny blood vessels in the eye that damage the retina may be a sign that there are also problems with the blood vessels in the brain.

That's the finding of a new study out of the University of California, San Francisco .

Dr. Rishi Singh did not take part in the study but is an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic interested in the findings.

"It's really well-known that diseases like hypertension and diabetes, which are really micro-vascular diseases can affect the eye as much as they affect the brain. It's just nice to know that we can pick it up as to see that the patients who do have retinopathy may need further evaluation with their primary care physician to control those disease states before they go on to develop severe neurological conditions," said Dr. Singh.

Researchers studied more than 500 women in this study.

They tested their memory and thinking skills at the beginning of the study, and then they followed them for up to 10 years.

They found the women who had damage to their retinas -- or retinopathy -- had lower scores on their cognitive tests than women who had no retinal damage.

Researchers think that one day a simple eye screening could expose brain health problems.

Dr. Singh agrees.

 "That's why screening is so key. Seeing a patient, as the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends, at the age of 65 and yearly, thereafter, is really key to making sure you monitor them for the diseases that may occur in their lives," said Dr. Singh.

Complete findings for this study are in the journal "Neurology."

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