The world's population is aging rapidly and the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease is on the rise. For this reason, the need for efficient dementia screening methods that can be applied to millions of people is dire; current diagnostic practices are either invasive or ineffective.
Using an innovative and noninvasive eye imaging technique, the scientists maintain that they can distinguish between signs of Alzheimer's and signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a condition that raises the risk of Alzheimer's but is not harmful in itself.
The signs of Alzheimer's disease in the retina
The technique called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to examine the link between the eyes' retinas and Alzheimer's disease.
OCTA lets ophthalmologists examine each of the retina's layers, mapping them and measuring their thickness noninvasively. The technique uses light waves to take photos of the retina.
Researchers have used OCTA to study how dementia affects the retina because it enables them to examine the finest veins and red blood cells that are present at the back of the eye.
In the first study, scientists compared the retinas of people with Alzheimer's with those of people who had only MCI, and with the retinas of those who had neither of these conditions.
The scientists speculate that the changes in the retina reflect the disruptions in the brain's blood vessels that Alzheimer's causes. This is a valid hypothesis, they say, given that the optic nerve connects the brain with the retina.
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