an older man getting his eyes examined, AMD, prevent macular degeneration, heart rate, window to your brain

It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer disease early in its course. In fact, a definitive diagnosis has only been available upon autopsy. But what if you had a window to your brain? Would that make early diagnosis easier?

Your Eyes Are the Window to Your Brain:

Now, scientists have found markers of the disease that can be seen in the retina (AAO 2018, Chicago, IL Oct. 28, 2018). The back of the eye starts to show changes even before people notice serious memory loss.

The non-invasive test called optical coherence tomography angiography could be done by an ophthalmologist.  Impressively, this test is able to distinguish between people with mild cognitive impairment and those who progress to Alzheimer disease. In Alzheimer disease, the retina has fewer blood vessels and the inner layer is thinner.

Who Did the Research?

These observations were made independently by two separate teams of researchers. Drs. Sharon Fekrat And Dilraj Grewal, in the Department of Ophthalmology at Duke University, say the scan would take only seconds. The other study was led by Dr. Ygal Rotenstreich at the Goldschleger Eye Institute at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Both teams presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In conclusion, early diagnosis using the eyes as the window to your brain would permit earlier intervention to slow or prevent cognitive decline.

In the meantime, watch out for drugs that could lead to confusion and memory loss. Also, do what you can to avoid insulin resistance, as that appears to increase the risk for Alzheimer disease.

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  1. Will
    Santa Fe, NM

    I see a lot of comments about the lack of treatment for Alzheimer’s. I have been treating patients for the last two years with Dr Dale Bredesen’s methods [see The End of Alzheimer’s]. Its true that people deep in Alzheimer’s have very little chance of reversal, but we have seen some in early Alzheimer’s and nearly all in Mild Cognitive Decline reverse their condition. MRI’s have even documented increases in hippocampal volume. It is real.

  2. Terry

    With no cure in sight, I see nothing life-enhancing about a positive finding.

  3. AG
    Raleigh NC

    I would like to know the cost of this procedure and I plan on asking when I get my eyes examined this year. Personally, yes, I would like to know if I’m Alzheimer bound or not. Actually, I think it’s better to know than to worry that every little thing is going to end up with a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease (I can’t find my glassess – oh no – I must be getting Alzheimer’s).

  4. Paul R
    Mars Hill, NC

    Why don’t I see the Comments stream to the articles any more?

  5. Tom

    I never see an ophthalmologist, but do see an optometrist every year.
    There’s nothing in the description that suggests that only the more expensive practitioner could do this scan.

  6. carol

    Does this procedure require special equipment that an ophthalmologist wouldn’t normally have?

  7. Diane
    Door County, Wi.

    Early diagnosis makes sense to me. Intervention therapy could be planned for and so could one’s wishes as to how they wish to be treated at a particular stage of Alzheimer’s should it develop.

  8. Margaret

    What is the Harvard researcher’s name? Did I hear his name as “Robert Moya”? A web search turns up nothing seemingly relevant for various combinations “Robert Moya”, “Alzheimer”, and “Harvard”..

  9. Lynn

    Regardless of few or no treatment options, I would want to know so that I may make plans for my future care before becoming unable to do so myself. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1 month or 10 years in the future. I’d want to make my own plans. Have no children or trusted family so it’s up to me or my husband should he survive me. A plan in place would give me peace of mind now.

  10. Kate
    Southwest US

    I know that I have the APO4 gene, amyloid plaque and a family history. I am now participating in a clinical study which might end soon due to the latest results in other studies. I know another study might be beginning, and I would participate again. This is done in memory of my loved ones who have passed and my children. As of now, I have no cognitive impairment. I do expect that will change. I have no intention of developing full blown Alzheimer’s and will do what is necessary to make sure of that. In the mean time, I wake up each morning and spend a moment being grateful for a new day. I enjoy my life and my time with my loved ones so much more, and I don’t sweat the small stuff!

  11. Rose

    I contacted my doctor about being tested, but their practice is unaware of anyone doing this. Could someone assist with a list of places where this testing is done?

    • Terry Graedon

      You might need the ophthalmology department of an academic medical center.

  12. Michele Marie

    Wow … great news …

  13. Gail
    Sussex, nj

    Does medicare or health family care pay for the test?

  14. Barbara N.

    “The non-invasive test called optical coherence tomography angiography could be done by an ophthalmologist. Impressively, this test is able to distinguish between people with mild cognitive impairment and those who progress to Alzheimer disease. In Alzheimer disease, the retina has fewer blood vessels and the inner layer is thinner.”
    BUT if the retina has fewer blood vessels and the inner layer is thinner, could that indicate something other than Alzheimer disease and not AD?

    • Terry Graedon

      We don’t know the details; optical coherence tomography angiography is being used to diagnose a number of conditions. Here is a quote from a 2017 paper:
      “The integration of OCTA in multimodal imaging in the evaluation of retinal vascular occlusive diseases, diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, inherited diseases, age-related macular degeneration, and disorders of the optic nerve is presented.”
      Here’s the link:

  15. james

    There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, not even a hint of a treatment. An early, accurate test sounds like a suicide machine to me.

  16. Anne

    The thing is, if they can’t do anything about it, then I don’t want to know. I worry enough as it is.

  17. Linda
    Madison, WI

    I’m all for early diagnosis if the test is conclusive and proven, and there is a treatment protocol. If not, what’s the point of scaring people when there is nothing to be done about it? We’ve seen the dangers of premature advice on nutrition: the food pyramid that encouraged a high simple carb diet; testing that is so invasive it’s worse than a cure; false positives, etc.

    Now we are in a new health care era in which profit has become the motive, and our medical system is in the hands of insurance companies, some heavily invested in diagnostic testing devices and pharmaceuticals. Look at the profits of colonoscopies, for one thing. They are so profitable that whole buildings are being devoted to them. We have a non-invasive test–Cologuard–available but colonoscopy is still considered the “Gold Standard” even though every part of it has damage potential: the cleanse, the invasive procedure, the anesthetic, and the flexible instrument used.

    A retina scan may prove to be a wonderful diagnostic tool but what happens with the information? And what happens to the patient who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that may be years in the future? Or maybe not at all, depending on the conclusiveness of the test after years of being used and, maybe, destroying lots of lives. Who can enjoy life with a diagnosis like that hanging over their head, especially with no clear guidelines to avoid it?

    Technology is a wonderful tool, and it would be so welcome if only we had a health care system in the hands of medical professionals in which good health, rather than profit, was the motive.

    • Lisa
      Orange County CA

      I have a genetic marker, and I would do this test, knowing there is no official treatment protocol. Because then I could plan, financially and with very detailed healthcare instructions, for how I would want to be treated (or not treated) once my mind went. That would give me peace of mind and better quality of life in my remaining sane days. And, although there is no agreed-upon treatment, you can see from the comment above that there are some treatments that have shown effect especially for the earlier stages.

  18. Judy

    …”earlier intervention to slow or prevent cognitive decline.” I didn’t know there were any such interventions. If there are, would you post something on that?

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