An Eye Doctor may help diagnose Alzheimer’s before its symptoms(Image Source:

March 11 : Researchers from the Duke Eye Center say that a simple eye exam can allow eye doctors to check up not only on your eyeglasses prescription but also on your brain and your health.

After conducting a study on more than 200 people suggests the loss of blood vessels in the retina could signal early Alzheimer’s disease.

In the normal case which included people with healthy brains, microscopic blood vessels form a dense web at the back of the yes inside the retina, the results of which were displayed by 133 individuals in a control group.

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 like age, gender, and level of education.

The study also found differences in the retinas of those with Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy people and to those with mild cognitive impairment which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

With nearly a large portion of the world living with Alzheimer’s disease and no viable treatments or non-invasive tools for early diagnosis, the burden on the families and the economy becomes heavy. Scientists have also studied other changes in the retina that could signal complications in the upper region of the brain, such as the thinning of some of the retinal nerve layers.

Previously researchers have known about the changes that occur in the brain and in the small blood vessels in people with Alzheimer’s disease. But because the retina is an extension of the brain, they have been keen on investigating whether these changes could be detected in the retina using new technology that is less invasive and easy to obtain.

One of the researchers used a non-invasive technology called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA). OCTA machines used light waves that reveal blood flow in every layer of the retina.

An OCTA scan could even reveal the changes in tiny capillaries almost less than half the width of a human hair, before the blood vessels changes are displayed on a brain scan such as an MRI or cerebral angiogram, which highlights only the larger blood vessels. But such techniques to study the brain are invasive and costly.

According to researchers, the ultimate goal would be to use this technology to detect Alzheimer’s early before symptoms of memory loss are evident and then be able to monitor these changes over time in individuals of clinical trials looking for new Alzheimer’s treatments.

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