An eye exam could one day provide early diagnosis of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer Disease

"The company's Australian arm, IBM Research, Australia, undertook a research and published its findings in journal Scientific Reports".

"It's possible these changes in blood vessel density in the retina may mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain".

Because the retina is an extension of the brain and shares many similarities with the brain, researchers believe that the deterioration in the retina may mirror the changes going on in the blood vessels in the brain, thereby offering a window into the disease process.

In addition to the 200 participants, researchers studied 133 healthy control subjects; 39 with Alzheimer's disease, and 37 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Upwards of 5.5 million Americans are estimated to possibly have the brain wasting disease, according to NIH, and these numbers will continue to increase in years to come if no cure is found, projections suggest an impending and staggering global impact of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. It is rarer in younger people, although they can be affected by Alzheimer's too.

This correlation could mean big things for the future of Alzheimer's diagnoses.

"There is a strong effort in the research community to develop a less invasive test, such as a blood test that can yield information about Alzheimer's disease risk, " he said. Past research has sought a way to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage, potentially making it possible to start treatment or make lifestyle changes to help mitigate the progression. Similar findings were discovered in 2018.

A study at Duke Eye Center may have found a suitable method, however, and it involves small blood vessels in the retina.

So why may there be poor blood supply to the eyes of people with Alzheimer's? That appearance signifies a healthy brain, but in cases of Alzheimer's disease, the blood vessels appear different. It may get trapped in the deposits of another protein called amyloid that is commonly associated with in the disease. Even though there is now no cure, early diagnosis will allow researchers to study new medications earlier as future treatments may be more effective when given early.

"It can't be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease quite yet".

This article is by Dr. Leila Haghighat, who is an internal medicine resident from Yale New Haven Hospital who also works with the ABC News Medical Unit.

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