Non-Invasive Eye Exam Might Help Predict Risk for Alzheimer’s, Study Suggests

Non-Invasive Eye Exam Might Help Predict Risk for Alzheimer’s, Study Suggests
A non-invasive eye exam, similar to those given in eye doctors' offices, might someday help predict a person's risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests. The study, “Association of Preclinical Alzheimer Disease With Optical Coherence Tomographic Angiography Findings,” was published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. While the findings are preliminary and further studies are necessary, they suggest a less costly and invasive way to identify risk. The build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain — the main suspect in triggering nerve cells’ death in  Alzheimer’s disease — is thought to occur two decades before a person begins to develop symptoms. To detect the disease researchers use positron emission tomography (PET) scans and lumbar punctures. During a PET scan, a person is injected with radioactive tracer molecules that bind to amyloid plaques. The PET scan is able to detect this radiation and create a detailed image of the plaques in the brain, indicating density and location. During a lumbar puncture, clinicians use a hollow needle inserted between the bones of the lower back to collect a sample of the fluid that circulates in the brain and spinal cord, the so-called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Previous studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's have alterations in their eyes, namely thinning in the center of the retina, with reduced blood flow and narrowing of blood vessels, and degradation of the optic nerve. Now, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers used a non-invasive technique called optical coherence tomography angiography that allows them to visualize tiny blood vessels in the retina to see whether Alzheimer's patients carry retinal alterations that might distinguish them
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