Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam

Soon, an eye examination may be all that is needed to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Duke's Health.

Man undergoing eye examination4 PM production | Shutterstock

Duke Eye Center recently recruited and studied the retinas of over 200 individuals to see if there were any differences between those with Alzheimer's and those without. The results of the study titled, “Retinal Microvascular and Neurodegenerative Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Compared with Control Participants,” were published in the latest issue of the journal Ophthalmology Retina.

The results showed that people who have a healthy brain function have a dense microscopic network of blood vessels in the retina, which can be observed through an eye examination. This web-like network of vessels was much less pronounced in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The data is based on retinal images from 133 healthy participants and 39 individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Age, gender, level of education was adjusted for all cases and controls to remove the influence of bias in the results.

Duke ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon Sharon Fekrat, senior author of the study said that the differences were significant among cases and controls:

We're measuring blood vessels that can't be seen during a regular eye exam and we're doing that with relatively new noninvasive technology that takes high-resolution images of very small blood vessels within the retina in just a few minutes. It's possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition.”

Sharon Fekrat, Senior Author

The team found that there were tell-tale signs of changes in the retinal blood vessels among those who have a mild cognitive impairment, a known precursor for Alzheimer’s disease. This is due to changes in the retinal nerve layers with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.

We know that there are changes that occur in the brain in the small blood vessels in people with Alzheimer's disease, and because the retina is an extension of the brain, we wanted to investigate whether these changes could be detected in the retina using a new technology that is less invasive and easy to obtain.

Dilraj S. Grewal, Lead Author

He said that they used a non-invasive technology called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to measure the blood flow in each of the layers of the retina. Some of the changes detected were in capillaries or blood vessels that measured less than the width of a human hair he explained.

Fekrat said, “Ultimately, the goal would be to use this technology to detect Alzheimer's early, before symptoms of memory loss are evident, and be able to monitor these changes over time in participants of clinical trials studying new Alzheimer's treatments.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, 2018 Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness and the Karen L. Wrenn Alzheimer's Disease Award.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2019, March 12). Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam. News-Medical. Retrieved on May 21, 2019 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190312/Alzheimere28099s-and-brain-health-could-soon-be-detected-using-an-eye-exam.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam". News-Medical. 21 May 2019. <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190312/Alzheimere28099s-and-brain-health-could-soon-be-detected-using-an-eye-exam.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190312/Alzheimere28099s-and-brain-health-could-soon-be-detected-using-an-eye-exam.aspx. (accessed May 21, 2019).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2019. Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam. News-Medical, viewed 21 May 2019, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190312/Alzheimere28099s-and-brain-health-could-soon-be-detected-using-an-eye-exam.aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
Post a new comment
Post