Dementia is fast becoming one of the most concerning age-related illnesses. So far, there’s no cure, no real diagnosis before the onset of symptoms and it can be heartbreaking for those around a sufferer. However, an incredible breakthrough has found a way to detect and diagnose the disease 20 years before the symptoms even begin to show!
Trials by US and Australian researchers have found changes in the eye’s retina may mirror changes that occur in the brain with dementia.
Retinal specialist at Duke University Medical Centre, Eleonora Lad said people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease experienced abnormalities in vision, perception of colour, motion and peripheral vision.
Dr Mojtaba Golzan, researcher with the School of Advanced Medicine at Macquarie University, said the idea came from looking at the disease using retinal scans.
“We’ve been recruiting patients who are sort of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and we’re scanning their eyes for any symptoms,” Dr Golzan said.
“When we stimulate it, the cells become active and they demand for more blood basically from the brain, and the brain responds by sending in more blood to the eye.
“And what we are seeing in these patients is that the response of the brain to the demand of blood from the eye is much lower in these patients compared to the controls on the same age and effects”.
The software used is a unique type of image-analysis and after a few eye scans, this will show these abnormalities and changes mentioned above.
With increasing frequency of dementia among the over 60s, this eye test is likely to become commonplace in preventative and preparatory health checks. The question is, what age should this test become part of a routine?
50 seems a logical point as most diagnoses of dementia are later in life, however early onset dementia is also increasing in frequency too. The other concern is whether or not lifestyle changes can be made to prevent the onset or delay the onset in patients who may have signs of the disease.
So tell us, would you like to see this become a standard preventative health check? At what age should it be introduced? Share your thoughts in the comments below…