Researchers at Moorfields eye hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have successfully developed a means of early detection for dementia, a disease that reduces a person’s cognitive ability and memory, and is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
The test, which measures the thickness of retinal nerves, is performed through an eye exam which focused on retinal cells in the back of the eyes, as well as odor detection.
During a trial period, these tests were administered alongside other tests which were designed to measure memory, reaction time and reasoning.
The results of both tests were compared, and a correlation between them was established. Those with poorer scores in the cognitive tests also had lower scored on the odor identification tests, and thinner retinal nerves.
If this new detection method proves to be useful in the general population, then early detection of dementia and Alzheimer’s may become more feasible, allowing for the development of more effective treatments of the diseases.
Early detection is so important because many of the changes that these diseases make in the brain occur well before symptoms begin to show. Once the disease is readily noticeable due to memory loss or frequent confusion, the damage to the brain has been done, and is completely irreversible.
By detecting Alzheimer’s t before the symptoms start to show, it may be possible, with future medicinal developments, to stop the diseases from progressing further.