Studies are beginning to show that the eye may be a unique window into otherwise unobservable brain pathology, responsible for diseases that affect cognition, such as Alzheimer’s disease. State-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging can now capture markers of both neurodegenerative and microvascular disease in the retina.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a non-invasive imaging test. OCT uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of the retina. With OCT, your doctor can see each of the retina’s distinctive layers. This allows your doctor to map and measure their thickness. These measurements help with diagnosis. They also help to provide a treatment plan for glaucoma & diseases of the retina such as AMD, Diabetic Eye Disease, Macular Hole, Macular Pucker, Macular Edema, Central Serous Retinopathy, and Diabetic Retinopathy & Vitreous Traction.
Alzheimer’s is marked by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. Earlier studies suggested these proteins also can build up in the eye, more specifically the retina, traveling along the optic nerve from the brain. The retina, unlike other structures of the eye, is part of the central nervous system, sharing many characteristics of the brain.
A new study has found that moderate to severe retinal damage to those in their sixties could be a clue that individuals will have cognitive problems by the time they are in their eighties. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University looked into the eye health of 60-year-olds as they aged. They discovered that the average cognitive and memory test scores for those with retinopathy dropped by 1.22 points over the course of 20 years. In comparison, the participants with good eye health declined by 0.91 points.
Identifying patients who are at risk of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is vitally important. There is currently no cure for these neurodegenerative diseases, but treating them early can help reduce the symptoms and help individuals live a more independent life for a longer period of time. Providing an individual more time to prepare for what is to come.
This study is another reason to have a complete eye exam every year including an OCT scan. There may be no cure at this time for these diseases, but these types of studies bring us closer to treatments and a future possibility of finding a cure.