Retina Exam May Detect Alzheimer's Disease Before Symptoms Emerge

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Simple eye tests could be used to spot Alzheimer's disease years before patients begin to lose their memory, a study suggests.

Saliva samples were taken from 109 patients who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, or as being healthy. The vessels of people with Alzheimer's disease were less dense and less thick, even when controlling for age, sex and level of education. For those with Alzheimer's, the same vessels are sparse and lacking in different areas. In addition, a specific layer of the retina was thinner in those with Alzheimer's.

An OCTA scan could even reveal the changes in tiny capillaries nearly 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. Their results were published Monday in the journal Ophthalmology Retina.

Standard optical equipment is not now strong enough to detect the vessels, which are about half the width of a strand of hair, but they did have success using a non-invasive technology called optical coherence demography and geography.

Citing a previous research, Goudey said: "Examining the concentration of the peptide in an individual's spinal fluid provides an indication of risk decades before any memory related issues occur".

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

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It would also give patients time to plan for the future with their families - while they still have their faculties, said the USA team.

"It's possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition", added Sharon Fekrat, ophthalmologist at the Duke University in the US.

IBM has introduced machine learning (ML) to the medical diagnostic fields in the hope that it could one day help clinicians predict the risk of Alzheimer's disease long before it gets detected. "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".

The study examined the blood flow at the back of the retina of over 200 participants using a non-invasive imaging technology known as optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA).

Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia affect 850,000 people in the United Kingdom - a figure set to rise to 2 million by 2050 because of the ageing population.

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