Alzheimer's disease and glaucoma: mechanistic similarities and differences

J Glaucoma. 2013 Jun-Jul;22 Suppl 5(0 5):S36-8. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0b013e3182934af6.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles, extracellular Aβ amyloid deposits in the form of amyloid plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and synaptic and neuronal loss co-exist in the brain parenchyma, with the limbic areas being the most severely affected. The classic clinical findings are personality changes, progressive cognitive dysfunction, and loss of ability to perform activities of daily living. Visual impairment is common and appears related to disease severity, suggesting that visual testing may provide a method of screening and tracking AD changes. Although still not fully understood, research and clinical findings point to a possible common causal relationship between AD and glaucoma. These two chronic neurodegenerative disorders share biological and mechanistic features, among them (1) a strong age-related incidence, (2) retinal ganglion cell degeneration, and (3) extracellular fibrillar deposits in exfoliation syndrome, the most common recognizable cause of glaucoma, suggesting that both diseases may originate from similar misfolding mechanisms. A presentation of common pathogenetic pathways associated with these disorders, including cell death mechanisms, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, mitochondrial dysfunction and vascular abnormalities, will serve as an initiation point for further exploration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Glaucoma* / complications
  • Glaucoma* / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma* / metabolism
  • Glaucoma* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology