It may soon be possible to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease through routine visits to opticians as researchers develop an optical imaging system that can detect a hallmark of the degenerative disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting up to 80 percent of dementia cases. The condition is marked by problems with reasoning and memory, as well as changes in behavior and mood that become more severe over time.
An estimated 5.5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s and an additional person gets diagnosed with the disease every 66 seconds.
Detecting Alzheimer’s Disease Through Retinal Imaging
In a proof of concept study, Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, Ph. D. of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and colleagues showed that it is feasible to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease through retinal imaging.
In their study published in the journal JCI Insight, the researchers showed how high-resolution imaging can detect beta-amyloid plaques in retinas, which can reveal the presence of the neurological condition.
The buildup of protein known as beta-amyloid is considered a culprit in the development of Alzheimer’s. Fragments of this protein clump together and form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Plaque buildup eventually leads to the inflammation and death of brain cells, which explains why buildup beta-amyloid is considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
Eye Test For Detecting Alzheimer’s Disease
Doctors currently rely on positron emission tomography or cerebral fluid analysis to detect the presence of beta-amyloid plaques. Recent studies, however, showed that beta-amyloid can also be detected in the retina so Koronyo-Hamaoui and colleagues tested a novel retinal imaging technique that can identify beta-amyloid deposits and diagnose Alzheimer’s.
Using retinal imaging technique, the researchers found that Alzheimer’s sufferers have nearly five times the amount of beta-amyloid plaques in the retina compared with individuals without the disease. The researchers had similar findings when they looked at the retina of deceased individuals using the imaging method. Those who had Alzheimer’s prior to their death were found to have a greater abundance of beta-amyloid plaque.
The results suggest that retinal imaging could be a feasible and low-cost screening method for detecting Alzheimer’s.
Detecting health problems through the eyes is not new. Eye check ups may reveal underlying health problems that a person may not be aware of so make sure to visit your eye doctor regularly. Contact us now to set an appointment with an eye specialist here at See Island Eyecare.