According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s. It’s a terrifying epidemic that plagues our nation, and the disease probably affects someone you know.
Because Alzheimer's attacks the brain, it also affects any part of the body that works closely with your brain. That means your eyes can be put at risk of the same degradation that Alzheimer’s puts your brain through.
With that being said, what are the symptoms to look for if you or your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s and is worried about loss of vision?
Here are some common symptoms and side effects that are certain to tell you if you are losing your vision due to Alzheimer’s.
Some of those affected by Alzheimer’s have trouble detecting movement or tracking moving objects with their eyes.
This is usually because they perceive things around them in a frame-by-frame manner, like a series of screenshots, rather than one moving picture.
This makes it incredibly difficult for the affected person to do everyday things like drive or watch TV.
Additionally, they might become lost and confused by this, even if they are in a familiar setting.
It is normal for a person’s peripheral vision to narrow with age, but those with Alzheimer’s can have a dramatic reduction in peripheral vision.
Their vision can narrow to only what they can see in front of them, causing them to be unable to see anything around them. This could cause the affected person to bump into objects, or be startled when someone approaches them from the side.
Those living with Alzheimer’s can also have their depth perception drastically reduced.
Besides having trouble judging distances, they may have trouble distinguishing objects that are three-dimensional from those that are two-dimensional, like the difference between an actual apple and a picture of one. Additionally, they may have trouble judging elevation, like the difference between a set of stairs and a small dip in the carpet.
Mistaken Perceptions of Objects
There are several ways that someone with Alzheimer’s can misperceive an object or person completely, even at close ranges:
- Hallucinations - This is when the affected person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that is not there. They perceive this as reality and are convinced that the object or person is interacting with them.
- Misidentification - When the affected person identifies an object or person by another name. This may mean that they may recognize a person as a different person, or see an object and think it serves a different purpose.
- Misperception - The damage done to the optic nerves as a result of deterioration in the brain can cause someone living with Alzheimer’s to have trouble recognizing objects or people altogether. For example, they may not recognize a son or daughter by face, or they may think that a footrest is the family pet.
There are several other everyday functions of the eye that can be affected by Alzheimer’s, but these are the most common.
Alzheimer’s is an extremely serious and difficult disease to live with, and staying informed on the dangers and risks of the disease is the best way to ensure that you are giving your loved one the care that they need to the best of your ability.
If you or your loved one think you might be at risk of developing optic issues associated with Alzheimer’s, please do not hesitate to see your eye doctor. Alzheimer’s is hard to go through, but maintaining good communication with your eye doctor can make the challenging journey a lot easier.