Dementia and failing eyesight

I believe that the nerve damage in dementias such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases affect all the nerves of the body. In my previous blog, I promised to discuss why I find it helpful to consider that all the nerves in the body are affected. It stops me from concentrating only on the nerve destruction in the brain while ignoring the damaged nerves in the rest of the body. It also brought to my attention a problem that is huge : This nerve damage causes many common diseases that we understand poorly, and that affect both the young and the elderly, including you. Further, realizing that any part of the nervous system can suffer, even when the symptoms differ—in one person dementia and in another numb feet and legs—helps us in seeking the causes of this damage. Once we understand the cause, we can find effective treatment for these common diseases and finding treatment is really exciting. This excitement is one reason I authored Retaining the Mind.

 

An example will help you understand my thoughts: after a meeting with friends from my high school class, six of us walked to our cars together, discussing my book as we walked. Two of the six surprised me by telling me that they could not read the book because of impaired eyesight. Then I remembered that two other friends had the same impairment. With four friends affected, all past 70 years old. I realized that this condition is not rare. My friends did not know the cause of this sight impairment and I suspect their doctor also did not know as my research shows me that this cause is too frequently unknown.

 

However, there is a clue. Failing eyesight is often associated with damage to the nerves that originate in the brain and end in the eye. Inflammation of these nerves accompanies the sight impairment. And, the sight loss intensifies as we age. But, what brings on the nerve inflammation with age? I ask myself that question each time I hear these unfortunate people discuss their sight.

 

Now I will pose it to you: What causes damage to the nerves controlling eyesight that strikes at the same age that dementias such as Alzheimer’s dementia strike and is accompanied by inflammatory changes to these nerves, similar to Alzheimer’s inflammation? If you are tempted to say that the cause of Alzheimer’s dementia and impaired sight is the same, I  agree with you.

 

Is this nerve damage in the eye due to the same causes as Alzheimer’s and other dementias—the years of eating and drinking foods and beverages containing the aging chemicals I discussed in Retaining the Mind? Can it be regarded as Alzheimer’s of the eyes? I think it is very possible. If it is, then we have a way to treat it. That is exciting!

 

We can treat this failing eyesight by changing our diet. In Retaining the Mind, in Chapter 9: “The Aging Chemicals and Nerve-related Illness”, I list the dementias and stated repetitively that it makes no sense to feed dementia sufferers foods with high levels of the aging chemicals that damage nerves. If we apply this treatment approach to people suffering eye impairment, stringently avoiding foods and beverages that contain high levels of these chemicals, would this impairment stop? Would the eyesight improve? Will it take six months or two years to see improvement? I do not know the answer to these questions but I know where to seek the answers—from people suffering sight impairment. Among them are people who may have recognized certain foods that worsen their eyesight and I would love to hear about their observations.

 

This experience, searching for causes of failing eyesight, is an example of how regarding nerve diseases as affecting all the nervous system helps us to understand diseases that affect a part of this system.

 

These notes are not intended to diagnose or treat any disease but to give you an example of how thinking about the entire nervous system can suggest the causes of the diseases affecting this system. I am not your eye doctor or your primary care doctor and you should closely follow their advice and not mine. I can neither diagnose or treat you. I can only tell you what I would do if my sight was failing. I would follow the same diet I follow now, using the information contained in Retaining the Mind, making sure it is a healthy diet, avoiding the foods and beverages that cause the nerve damage of my dementia. Nerve damage that I believe is also causing sight loss.

 

A research article:

An article from the journal Ophthalmology, January 20117, titled “Mediterranean Diet Score and Its Association with Age-Related Macular Degeneration” supports these thoughts. 4753 patients from different nations participated in the study. Those following a Mediterranean diet with its decreased refined sugar and MSG showed “significantly reduced odds of having” age-related macular degeneration.

 

These results are the same results shown in studies on Alzheimer’s disease: in people following the Mediterranean diet, Alzheimer’s disease  was significantly delayed . Or, to restate it, Alzheimer’s disease and age-related macular degeneration are both inhibited by a diet low in refined sugar and MSG. Therefore, diet must be a significant cause of both diseases. I make no secret that I believe that, in those genetically susceptible, diet is the most important cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, I also  believe, in those genetically susceptible, that diet is the major cause of age-related macular degeneration.

 

Assuming that these thoughts are right, it lends great support to regarding a diagnosis of damage to any part of the nervous system as damage to the whole nervous system. A sufferer of macular degeneration can also suffer numb feet and dementia. And you do not need to look for three different causes of these diseases. Just look in the diet. Treatment of all three can include following the diet in Retaining the Mind.

 

Addendum: If you are experiencing sight loss and would try the diet change discussed in Retaining the Mind to see if it stops the sight-loss and improves your sight, please contact me through the “contact” prompt at drwwalsh.com.

Dementia affects all nerves

One unified system

The best known of the diseases that damage nerves in the brain is Alzheimer’s disease. But,  it is not the only dementia. Among other nerve-damaging diseases are vascular and frontotemporal dementias and the dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease. They can all degrade speech, thinking and purposeful activity. They are all horrendous and disabling,

 

We possess other nerves that are not in the brain: They also are susceptible to damage and death. They include nerves of the arms and legs with the nerves in the arms leading to muscle weakness in the muscles of the upper extremity.  The nerves to the legs are particularly susceptible to damage, resulting in the numbness and weakness of the feet and lower legs that destroys the sense of balance that these nerves provide, forcing the use of canes, walkers and wheelchairs. This nerve destruction in the legs is especially marked in people with pre-diabetes and diabetes and is considered a reason for diabetic lower extremity infections that sometimes lead to amputation.

 

The above list of nerve destruction in various body parts is nowhere near complete. However, I hope they give you the idea that when we discuss any particular disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s dementias—or numb feet or stumbling—we are really discussing a wide-spread damage of the nervous system. I strongly believe that when a nerve disease, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, or vascular or frontotemporal dementia, afflicts one part of our nervous system, in this case the brain, it is also affecting every other nerve in the body.

 

Comparing our nervous system to a tree may help you understand my point. The trunk of the tree is attached to all the leaves on the tree through the branches, even the smallest leaf on the branch at the greatest distance from the trunk. The tree is all one unit, an integrated whole. Our nervous system is like this tree, one unit, an integrated whole, with the brain attached to every nerve in the body, even the nerves furthest from it such as the nerves of the feet. Although we may notice disease in only one part of the nervous system, the whole nervous system is involved in disease.

 

My next blog and a request for help

In my next blog, I will return to this subject and discuss the reason for regarding the nervous system as a unified, integrated whole. In the meantime, help me spread the good news that dementia can be controlled and reversed. I know it can be reversed as I have experienced this reversal and want to help others to recover thought, speech and purposeful activity. If you are aware of a group that would profit from this news, please have them contact me through my website, www.drwwalsh.com.

This website also contains several other blogs and my speech that supplements the information in my book, Retaining the Mind.