Although visual problems are reported by patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, studies into this particular aspect of neuropathology are scarce. The growing awareness of complex pathological processes in the ageing retina and brain, however, enables us to consider this from a new perspective. Here we discuss the latest findings on the wide-ranging visual defects experienced by those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We propose that events leading to chronic degeneration of the retina and the brain in fact share many striking similarities. In particular, we discuss the role of the Alzheimer’s-related amyloid beta (Aβ) group of peptides that has been shown to accumulate in senescent retinas, correlated with increased risk of retinal degeneration. The high photo-oxidative retinal environment creates ideal conditions for Aβ aggregation, evidenced by high Aβ loads reported in aged and donor eyes from patients with age-related macular degeneration. Consequently, longitudinal and non-invasive retinal assessments may provide invaluable information on incipient pathology and disease progression in the retina as well as the senescent brain. Such insights may not only lead to identifying new pathogenic mechanisms in the retina with implications for understanding Alzheimer’s disease but reveal the underlying causes of visual abnormalities reported in patients with dementia.
Part of the book: Update on Dementia