Eye Scans for Alzheimer's disease May Detect Earlier Symptoms of Disease

By Jenn Loro - 17 May '16 13:59PM

It has always been said that eyes are unique windows to the soul and, more recently, to the brain as well. The eyes of people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are quite different from those unaffected with the memory-robbing disease. But a newly-developed eye scan may help detect early signs of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases, a new study suggests.

A group of New England scientists has developed a special eye-scanning technique that could screen possible signs of Alzheimer's disease before its onset. This newly devised method of eye scan can be carried out in an ophthalmologist's clinic paving the way for earlier treatment before the emergence of major symptoms.

Presented at this year's Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is Seattle, Washington, the technique is a non-invasive and painless way with no chemical tracers involved in uncovering hints of a possible onset of dementia in the future.

As per Nurse.Com, the researchers made use of optical coherence tomography (OCT)- an imaging technology that scans any abnormalities in the retina- to detect any beta-amyloid buildup in the eye which is a sign of the disease's progression, potentially giving enough time window for doctors to come up with a treatment.

The research involved the study of 63 people aged 55 to 75 who are already at high risk for developing the dreaded Alzheimer's disease based on the recorded symptoms they manifested as well as they family's medical history. The results from the OCT scans are then compared with those from PET scans to measure the buildup of beta-amyloid protein that has long been associated with Alzheimer's, Live Science reported.

The results showed that the accumulation of beta-amyloid as revealed in OCT scans is quite close to the aggregates seen using PET scan. The implication is that once OCT is perfected, doctors can use it for initial assessment for Alzheimer's which would allow doctors to perform more thorough diagnosis using PET scans before prescribing a particular treatment.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia that continues to affect an increasing number of people around the world. In United States alone, death rates linked to the neurodegenerative disease have shown no signs of decreasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease. In three to four decades from now, the number could reach as high as 14 million, government statistics indicate.

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