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An Eye Doctor may help diagnose Alzheimer’s before its symptoms

14 March 2019

However, in the eyes of 39 people with Alzheimer's disease, the web was less dense and even sparse in places. The differences in density were statistically significant after researchers controlled for factors including age and sex. The blood vessel changes may be the result of changes in the brain that signify Alzheimer's disease.

The new study's authors propose reduced blood flow to the eyes may be because the protein that signals blood vessels to grow and proliferate is found at low levels in people with Alzheimer's. A specific layer of the retina was also thinner. "These changes happening in the retina in the eye may actually mirror the blood vessel changes happening in the brain of individual's with Alzheimer's disease".

The findings were published online in the journal Ophthalmology Retina.

The eye scan is called optical coherence tomographic angiography, or OCTA for short. These concentrations in the spinal fluid have been found to increase the chances that the disease progresses by 2.5 times.

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Dr. Fekrat believes that if more people in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's could be recruited into clinical trials, there is a bigger potential for better treatments to be discovered.

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, with symptoms including gradual degradation of memory, confusion, and dementia, which can make many everyday tasks increasingly problematic. Earlier diagnosis would also give patients and their families time to plan for the future.

Currently, medical professionals can diagnose the memory-destroying disease through brain-imaging tests (such an MRI or CT scan), neurological exams and other methods. "It's not possible for current techniques like a brain scan or lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to screen the number of patients with this disease".

"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", said Sharon Fekrat, lead author of the study.

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Alzheimer's disease is now diagnosed once symptoms appear, such as memory troubles and perception problems.

She added: "We need to detect the disease earlier and introduce treatments earlier".

In the US alone, 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer's dementia, according to 2019 data from the Alzheimer's Association.

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An Eye Doctor may help diagnose Alzheimer’s before its symptoms