Eye check-up to detect Alzheimer's disease

Eye check-up to detect Alzheimer's disease

"We already have more definitive ways to diagnose dementia due to Alzheimer's, but we need to see if OTCA can be a useful cost-effective screening test for pre-symptomatic Alzheimer's". Doctors use a combination of medical history review, physical exam, neurological exam, "mental status" test and brain imaging to make the diagnosis.

Although preliminary work in this small sampling yielded results that are very promising, it was noted further study making use of a larger sampling is required to validate their findings and to develop a saliva test for the disease. They took images of their eyes and discovered the twin with Alzheimer's disease had significantly decreased blood vessel density in the retina. This latest research is the largest study to date and adds to the current literature as scientists strive to find a quick, noninvasive, and low-priced way to detect Alzheimer's at the earliest stages.

Researchers say they plan to study people who have the gene for Alzheimer's but don't have symptoms next to see they may be able to predict the development of the disease.

In a study of more than 200 people, researchers with the Duke Eye Center found differences in the blood vessel densities in the retinas of participants with Alzheimer's and those without the disease.

But US scientists at the Duke Eye Centre in North Carolina wondered if changes might also be visible in the retina, which is an extension of the brain and so could offer a window into what is happening behind the skull. OCTA machines use light waves that reveal blood flow in every layer of the retina.

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Standard optical equipment is not now strong enough to detect the vessels, which are about half the width of a strand of hair, but they did have success using a non-invasive technology called optical coherence demography and geography.

The OCTA machines, relatively a new noninvasive technology, measures blood vessels that can not be seen during a regular eye examination. The findings were published in the journal Ophthalmology Retina. Such techniques to study the brain are invasive and costly.

Now the only ways to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's are through expensive brain scans or by taking a fluid sample from the patient's spinal cord. "If we can detect these blood vessel changes in the retina before any changes in cognition, that would be a game changer".

"Cognitively normal, healthy individuals do not have these changes in their retina", explained Dr. Sharon Fekrat, an ophthalmologist at Duke Eye Center and author of the study.

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