An amazing new study conducted in the USA suggests that ophthalmologists may be able to tell if a person is susceptible to Alzheimer's disease from an simple eye exam. To be more specific, researchers discovered that the presence of toxic tau and inflammation in a person's retinae could signal the onset of this progressive neurodegenerative disease.
This study took place at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Researchers on this study told reporters that the toxic tau at the root of Alzheimer's disease begins harming a person's brain by inducing inflammation. This inflammation, they argue, can first be detected in a person's retinae.
Alzheimer's disease begins when the tau proteins in the central nervous system are infected with toxins and slowly become tau oligomers. These tau oligomers start to form tangled balls in a person's brain. Eventually, if left untreated, these tau oligomers could kill a large portion of a patient's brain cells.
Researchers involved with this study took a look at various retina scans from Alzheimer's patients. They also compared these human retina scans with their findings from a successful test on mice with Alzheimer's. Both tests suggested that the retinae become inflamed in those affected with Alzheimer's.
Rakez Kayed, a lead researcher on this study, said that there was a direct correlation between inflammation in the retinae and the increase of tau oligomers in Alzheimer's patients. Kayed suggested using both anti-tau oligomer and anti-inflammatory therapeutics to best combat Alzheimer's disease.
Professors at the University of Texas believe this simple eye scan could tremendously help detect Alzheimer's early on. Just a few of the benefits of this retina scan are that it's non-invasive, very cheap, and can be done at every ordinary eye checkup.
With an increasingly aging population around the world, the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is going up. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America estimates that 5.1 million Americans now have Alzheimer's disease. Initial symptoms of the disease include difficulty concentrating, increased confusion, forgetfulness, mood swings, and loss of appetite.
Alzheimer's is just one more disease ophthalmologists may be tasked with detecting early on through general eye exams. Just a few other health issues that can be detected through scanning the retinae include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.