Can an Eye Test Detect Early Alzheimer’s Disease?

Can an Eye Test Detect Early Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a disease that doesn’t just rob someone of their memory, but of everything that they have. It slowly chips away at the mind, and later the body. This horrific disease has no cure, but it can be slowed down with medication.

The trouble here is that this memory disease does not always present obvious symptoms. Memory loss is definitely the symptom most presented but many people think they’re just having a “senior moment” or are just being forgetful.

When people don’t know they have Alzheimer’s disease, it will progress until it is too late to slow down the disease. Even is caught relatively early, treatments exists to slow the disease and not prevent it.

We hate to start an article off on such a bleak note, but there is hope according to a new study that has found that an eye test may be able to identify Alzheimer’s years before symptoms begin to show.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is best known as the memory loss disease, but in reality it is so much more than that. The disease targets the entire brain. Eventually, it will completely eat away at the brain cells, leading to death.

The disease is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain. When this happens, brain cells begin to die. As they begin to die, doing normal things like moving and feeding yourself becomes more and more difficult.

Alzheimer’s itself does not lead to death, but the reduced cognitive function does. If you can’t feed yourself or swallow food, your body will deteriorate and inevitably die.

Treatments to slow the disease are available. If caught early, medication can help to make living with the symptoms easier and can slow the progression of the disease, but it cannot prevent the symptoms from getting worse. Eventually they will get worse to the point where no medication can help.

Can an Eye Test Detect Early Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Forgetfulness is a definite part of aging, but Alzheimer’s disease is not. It’s important to monitor memory loss, of course, but it is also important to know what other symptoms can be a sign of Alzheimer’s.

Memory loss is a big symptom, but not just any kind of memory loss. Have you ever gone into a room looking for something, but immediately forget what you were looking for? Chances are as soon as you leave the room, you’ll remember what you needed. This is normal memory loss.

Someone with Alzheimer’s will have difficulty remembering new information, important dates and names; they will forget that a big event happened (a wedding, a weather disaster, etc.) and they will rely heavily on memory aids such as leaving notes on sticky pads like Post-Its or their phones.

Another symptom to watch for is having trouble with everyday tasks. The familiar become unfamiliar when someone has Alzheimer’s. For example, driving to the grocery store that you shop at every week may become a challenge when you suddenly can’t remember where the store is.

Other signs of Alzheimer’s are forgetting vocabulary, making conversing difficult, frequently losing things, poor judgement, and intense mood swings.

There is one final symptom we’d like to talk about: change in vision. When someone begins to develop Alzheimer’s disease their vision will change. The brain and eyes are closely connected so it only makes sense that the eyes will diminish too.

Someone with Alzheimer’s will have trouble reading words on a page, have difficulty seeing colors and telling them apart and will have difficulty with depth perception and judging distance.

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Detecting Alzheimer’s Through the Eyes

A new study has found that an eye exam could potentially detect Alzheimer’s disease long before the symptoms set in.

The study, published by the Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, claims that photos taken with special imaging equipment and techniques may be able to identify Alzheimer’s in humans before any cognitive decline.

At the very least, they were able to achieve this with their mouse subjects. The mice being used in testing were found to show no cognitive signs of Alzheimer’s, when a brain scan was taken. However, when an image of the eye was taken, it looked like the eye of a mouse with Alzheimer’s.

When someone develops Alzheimer’s the light in the eyes is reflected differently in the retina. This is what eventually leads to vision changes. However, being able to detect this refractive change early may mean better treatments for those in the early stages of the disease.

What Comes Next

The doctors behind the study say that the next step is to test the imaging technique on human subjects. Luckily, the technique bares low risks, as it is not invasive and is as easy as taking a photo of the retina.

Being able to detect Alzheimer’s before it really begins to set in and affect the brain is a huge step in finding a preventative measure for the disease. If it can be caught before reaching the brain, the proper medication could prevent those forgetful symptoms from ever appearing. That’s the hope at least.

The new imaging technique is also an inexpensive way to detect the disease in no more than a few minutes. This new way of photographing the retina can save lives and help preserve the brain from this disease that will take everything away from a person.

Unfortunately, the one thing this study does not speak to is finding a cure for the disease. For all the things we understand about the brain, there are more things we don’t understand. It is a complex organ and further studies for a cure are definitely needed.

For the time being, we can focus on the positive note that we may be close to a preventative solution that will stop the disease before it hits the brain. This is why it is so important to watch for those vision changes as we age.

Visiting the eye doctor annually is recommended for those above the age of 60. Talk to your doctor if you experience sudden vision changes. An eye exam could save your life.

About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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One response to “Can an Eye Test Detect Early Alzheimer’s Disease?”

  1. Avatar for Kate Kate says:

    Thank you for this info. My mom had early onset Alzheimer’s and passed at age 72 in 1995. Her younger had the same disease and passed at 71. I am 65 and I have low tension glaucoma and have lost a significant amount of vision. My dad had glaucoma and unfortunately for me, he did not share that (did not want to worry us). I did not realize I had Glaucoma until I took a lesson in putting and the teaching pro told me to open one eye to line up the putt…I was shocked at the vision loss. Oh, I had/have vision insurance but my sight was fine, so I never went to the optometrist. Well , I have had two trabectalectamies (sp) and my pressure are very low and no change in visual fields in 8 years…that’s great.

    Now, I am going to talk to my opthamologist about a retinal test for early Alzheimers. Thank you for this information.

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