16.03.2012

Eye tests "could detect cognitive decline"

Eye tests "could detect cognitive decline"

By Alexa Kaczka

Simple eye tests could detect cognitive decline, after research indicated that retinopathy is linked to cognitive decline.

A study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that women aged 65 or older who have even a mild form of the blood vessel disease are more likely to have cognitive decline and related vascular changes in the brain.

Retinopathy is usually a result of Type II diabetes or hypertension, meaning that a diagnosis of the eye condition could detect these diseases in their early stages, before they are clinically identifiable.

This means that a simple eye test which can diagnose retinopathy could allow for early treatment interventions for these conditions, when they might be much more effective.

In the research, which was published in the journal Neurology, scientists followed 511 women with an average starting age of 69, for a decade.

Each year they were subjected to a cognition test designed to assess short-term memory and cognitive processes.

In the fourth year they were given an eye exam and in their eighth year took a brain scan.

Data shows that 7.6 per cent of the women were diagnosed with retinopathy, with these women on average scoring worse on the cognition test than their peers with good eye health.

For example, they had more difficulty remembering a list of words just five minutes after hearing them.

The participants with retinopathy were also seen to have more damage to the blood vessels in their brain, with 47 per cent more ischemic lesions in the vasculature overall and 68 per cent more lesions in the parietal lobe.

They were also seen to have more of a thickening of white matter tracks that send signals to the brain, which it is believed are the result of high blood pressure.

by Martin Burns


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