Oculo-visual changes and clinical considerations affecting older patients with dementia

Richard Armstrong*, Hélène Kergoat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Dementia is associated with various alterations of the eye and visual function. Over 60% of cases are attributable to Alzheimer's disease, a significant proportion of the remainder to vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies, while frontotemporal dementia, and Parkinson's disease dementia are less common. This review describes the oculo-visual problems of these five dementias and the pathological changes which may explain these symptoms. It further discusses clinical considerations to help the clinician care for older patients affected by dementia. Recent findings: Visual problems in dementia include loss of visual acuity, defects in colour vision and visual masking tests, changes in pupillary response to mydriatics, defects in fixation and smooth and saccadic eye movements, changes in contrast sensitivity function and visual evoked potentials, and disturbance of complex visual functions such as in reading ability, visuospatial function, and the naming and identification of objects. Pathological changes have also been reported affecting the crystalline lens, retina, optic nerve, and visual cortex. Clinically, issues such as cataract surgery, correcting the refractive error, quality of life, falls, visual impairment and eye care for dementia have been addressed. Summary: Many visual changes occur across dementias, are controversial, often based on limited patient numbers, and no single feature can be regarded as diagnostic of any specific dementia. Nevertheless, visual hallucinations may be more characteristic of dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease dementia than Alzheimer's disease or frontotemporal dementia. Differences in saccadic eye movement dysfunction may also help to distinguish Alzheimer's disease from frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson's disease dementia from dementia with Lewy bodies. Eye care professionals need to keep informed of the growing literature in vision/dementia, be attentive to signs and symptoms suggestive of cognitive impairment, and be able to adapt their practice and clinical interventions to best serve patients with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-376
Number of pages25
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Armstrong, R., & Kergoat, H. (2015). Oculo-visual changes and clinical considerations affecting older patients with dementia. Ophthalmic and physiological optics, 35(4), 352-376, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/opo.12220. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • dementia
  • dementia with lewy bodies
  • vascular dementia
  • visual dysfunction


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