14 July 2014

Eye test could detect Alzheimer's disease

A study found a strong link between levels of beta-amyloid plaques – associated with Alzheimer's disease – in the lens of the eye and in the brain.


Eye tests could be used to identify people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, two new studies suggest.

In one study, early results from 40 participants who used a certain eye test found a significant association between levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the retina of the eye and levels of the plaques in the brain. Beta-amyloid plaques in the brain are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Read: Why regular eye tests are important

This type of eye test could be used in conjunction with the brain scans and clinical tests currently relied on to diagnose Alzheimer's, study author Shaun Frost, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, said in a news release from the Alzheimer's Association.

More than just an eye test

The eye test could also be used to monitor the progression of Alzheimer's and a patient's response to treatment, Frost added.

Read: Alzheimer's: why early detection is important

The preliminary results were scheduled for release at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association in Copenhagen, Denmark. The full study, involving 200 participants, is expected to be completed later this year.

Another study presented at the meeting utilised a different type of eye test. It found a strong link between levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the lens of the eye and in the brain.

Read: More people dying from Alzheimer's than suspected

"There is a critical need for a fast, dependable, low-cost and readily available test for the early diagnosis and management of Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Pierre Tariot, director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, said in an Alzheimer's Association news release. Tariot was a principal investigator in the study.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Read more:

Blood proteins may predict Alzheimer's
Caffeine intake may inhibit Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's: 10 questions to ask the doctor

Image: Eye test from Shutterstock

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