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Alzheimer’s one day may be predicted during eye exam

Alzheimer’s one day may be predicted during eye exam

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Greg Van Stavern, MD, (seated) and Rajendra Apte, MD, PhD, examine Kathleen Eisterhold’s eyes, using technology that one day may make it possible to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease during an eye exam. In a small study, the eye test was able to detect the presence of Alzheimer’s damage in older patients with no symptoms of the disease. Credit: Matt Miller

It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.

Using technology similar to what is found in many eye doctors’ offices, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have detected evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s in older patients who had no symptoms of the disease.

Their study, involving 30 patients, is published Aug. 23 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

“This technique has great potential to become a screening tool that helps decide who should undergo more expensive and invasive testing for Alzheimer’s disease prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms,” said the study’s first author, Bliss E. O’Bryhim, MD, Ph.D., a resident physician in the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. “Our hope is to use this technique to understand who is accumulating abnormal proteins in the brain that may lead them to develop Alzheimer’s.”

Significant brain damage from Alzheimer’s disease can occur years before any symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline appear. Scientists estimate that Alzheimer’s-related plaques can build up in the brain two decades before the onset of symptoms, so researchers have been looking for ways to detect the disease sooner.

Physicians now use PET scans and lumbar punctures to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, but they are expensive and invasive.

In previous studies, researchers examining the eyes of people who had died from Alzheimer’s have reported that the eyes of such patients showed signs of thinning in the center of the retina and degradation of the optic nerve.

In the new study, the researchers used a noninvasive technique—called optical coherence tomography angiography—to examine the retinas in eyes of 30 study participants with an average age in the mid 70s, none of whom exhibited clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Eimer’s disease begins damaging the brain long before any symptoms appear, and researchers have developed a couple of ways to diagnose the disease earlier. Now, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests an eye test may one day be a useful diagnostic tool. Jim Dryden has more… Credit: Washington University BioMed Radio

Those participants were patients in The Memory and Aging Project at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. About half of those in the study had elevated levels of the Alzheimer’s proteins amyloid or tau as revealed by PET scans or

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