Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed early with a non-invasive eye test, research finds.
The new way of imaging the retina (called optical coherence tomography angiography) allows scientists to spot tell-tale changes to blood vessels in the back of the eye.
The test can spot patients with a family history of Alzheimer’s but who are not yet experiencing any symptoms, according to the latest research.
It is also capable of telling apart those with mild cognitive impairment from those with Alzheimer’s.
Early diagnosis is critical to the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Current tests cannot spot the disease until it is too late.
Dr Ygal Rotenstreich, the lead researcher, said:
“A brain scan can detect Alzheimer’s when the disease is well beyond a treatable phase.
We need treatment intervention sooner.
These patients are at such high-risk.”
The test works because the brain is connected to the eye by the optic nerve.
Changes in the retina and the blood vessels reflect changes in the brain.
Professor Sharon Fekrat, study co-author, said:
“This project meets a huge unmet need.
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.
Almost everyone has a family member or extended family affected by Alzheimer’s.
We need to detect the disease earlier and introduce treatments earlier.”
The study was published in the journal Ophthalmology Retina (Yoon et al., 2019).