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A recent study into cataract surgery for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has revealed some surprising results, beyond the expected improvement in vision quality.
The first-of-its-kind study has been carried out by researchers from the Tenon Hospital in Paris, who found that cataract surgery also produced a number of unexpected quality of life benefits.
“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 Dr Brigitte Girard, lead author and a researcher at the hospital, when she revealed the findings of the study at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting in Florida.
For the study, the researchers enrolled 46 men and women from geriatric centres around Paris, with an average age of 85. All had cataracts that severely impaired their vision in at least one eye. After the procedure, all but one of the patients had dramatically improved vision.
However, the other outcomes proved to be a revelation – the study found that most patients also displayed considerable gains in cognitive ability, mood, sleep patterns and other behaviours. One in four patients also showed marked advances in their thinking and memory skills, while many showed lessening symptoms of depression.
In addition to improved sleep patterns, the patients had fewer nightly outbursts and behaviour issues, known to be a common problem for people with Alzheimer’s which impacts greatly on their carers.
This, the researchers believe, may be because of improved processing of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep (other studies have already shown that cataract surgery can improve melatonin levels).
Dr Girard believes that cataract surgery may even lead to further benefits. “In future studies we intend to learn what factors specifically led to the positive effects we found, so we can boost the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers,” she said.
Clearly, this is exciting news and it suggests many people may have an improved quality of life, as well as greatly enhanced vision, when they have cataract surgery.
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