Eye check could detect early signs of Alzheimer's
A new eye test could be used to spot early signs of Alzheimer's disease, research suggests.
The test, which highlights microscopic blood vessels at the back of the eye, has the potential to detect the disease before symptoms appear, scientists claim.
Experts agree that early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is vital to the effectiveness of therapies aimed at slowing, halting or reversing the disease.
An early study found that tiny blood vessels which normally form a dense web at the back of the eye become sparser in Alzheimer's patients.
The new research raises the prospect of opticians with the technology checking brain health at the same time as they update spectacle prescriptions.
Dr Sharon Fekrat, from Duke University Medical Centre in the US, said: "We're measuring blood vessels that can't be seen during a regular eye exam and we're doing that with relatively new non-invasive technology that takes high-resolution images of very small blood vessels within the retina in just a few minutes.
"It's possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition."
Potentially the test could spot warning signs of Alzheimer's before vascular abnormalities show up on brain scans.
The technique, optical coherence tomography angiography (Octa), allows doctors to see retinal blood vessels smaller than the width of a human hair.