Findings of a new study have revealed that small opacities that cover the blood vessels in the retina, known as the retinal amyloid plaque, may indicate early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings mean that caregivers, families and patients may receive an earlier diagnosis, allowing them to take the necessary action to slow the progression of the disease. There is currently no standard test to diagnose the degenerative condition so the findings offer hope that examining the eyes could be a major development that can help in battling Alzheimer’s, which currently affects more than 5 million Americans.
In people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the damaging beta-amyloid plaque creates communication problems with the brain cells. While the reason behind this is unknown, researchers have found that the buildup of the plaque in the retina mirrors the pathology of the brain, particularly in the region that plays a crucial role for visual processing.
Researchers have long known that monitoring the health of the eyes can identify at an early stage a person who is at risk for stroke. The eyes can also offer insight into the internal health of the body and unlike examining the brain tissue, using the eye tissue offers a more affordable and noninvasive option to take a peek into the brain’s health.
The eyes are formed from brain tissue during child development, so the link between the eye and brain function should not come as a surprise.
What is exciting about the findings of the new study is that it offers researchers insights on how to prevent Alzheimer’s from developing. The plaque buildup in the retinal blood vessels mirrors that of the brain’s plaque buildup. Taking proactive steps to reduce the plaque buildup in the retinal blood vessels may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A healthy diet can help prevent the buildup of beta-amyloid. Certain nutrients are crucial to eye health and keep the retinas, as well as the brain, healthy. These include Vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, lutein, magnesium, selenium, omega-3 fish oil and folic acid.
A better understanding of the link between our eye health and the overall health of our body becomes more important as chronic conditions become more prevalent. This is also the reason why it is important to have regular eye checkups.
Eye doctors get an idea about your overall health by examining your eyes. Set an appointment with one of our eye specialists here at See Island Eyecare to have your eye health evaluated.