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Could an Eye Exam Someday Prevent Alzheimer's Disease?

It is often said that the eyes are the window of the soul, but did you know that they are also a window into the brain’s health? By observing the results of a retinal scan, it may be possible to detect Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have found differences between the blood vessels in the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease and those in a healthy brain, which could make it easier to detect one day.

Currently, patients must take memory, attention and language tests before receiving an Alzheimer diagnosis. Other medical tests, such as a brain scan, must also be performed before the disease is properly diagnosed. However, these methods do not allow for a definitive diagnosis. This is why researchers desperately want to find other screening techniques, such as the use of an OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography).

A study from the Duke University Medical Center found that the network of blood vessels in the retina of a person with Alzheimer's disease is less dense than normal. Changes in the retinal vessels may therefore reflect those of the brain, according to these researchers. If what they found is true, we can think of the retina as an extension of the brain. To get an accurate picture of this part of the eye, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists use an OCT, a device that allows the scanner to see all the layers of the eye. During an eye exam, this device is used more specifically to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. This device is really effective and can detect these diseases even before symptoms start to appear.

The OCT has the capacity to show the smallest blood vessels, compared to other types of scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which only show the largest vessels. The OCT method is also preferred by our professionals because the MRI is more expensive and invasive. At this very moment, there is no easier or more affordable way to get a diagnosis. For all of these reasons the OCT would become an extremely interesting tool to eventually detect Alzheimer's disease. OCT is a non-invasive technology that delivers results in minutes. The camera provides high definition images that cannot be seen during the regular eye exam. It is able to detect blood vessels as small as half a hair!

Will we ever be able to diagnose Alzheimer's with a retinal scan? Before arriving at a precise conclusion, researchers will have to continue to look into the question to prove that there is indeed a link between changes in the retina’s blood vessels and Alzheimer's disease. Did you know that many IRIS stores are equipped with an OCT, which makes it possible to detect eye diseases as quickly as possible? To make sure your eyes are healthy, make an appointment with your Optometrist.

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