Retinopathy link to cognitive decline: study

The US study of 511 women, who were older than 65 years and enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative memory and sight examination studies, examined the link between cognitive performance, white matter hyperintensities and lacunar infarcts in the basal ganglia. 

Retinopathy was associated with poorer cognitive performance scores over the 10 year follow-up and greater ischaemic volumes in the brain and parietal lobe, but not measures of brain atrophy, the researchers found. Some 61% of retinopathy cases occurred in hypertensive women. 

While retinopathy was a known complication of both type 2 diabetes and hypertension, the researchers argued that it might prove a useful clinical tool if it could be shown to be an early marker of neurological outcomes.

Their results supported a role for small vessel disease in relation to cognitive outcomes, and might point to an additive model, where ischaemia and infarction lower the threshold at