Can an eye test indicate dementia?
Unfortunately, more and more people are suffering from dementia these days. Doctors are looking for ways to diagnose the disease effectively and early. Researchers have now found that a simple eye test that can be done by opticians can predict the risk of developing dementia.
In their current study, scientists from University College London found that an eye test can determine the likelihood of developing dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "JAMA Neurology".
What was the eye test originally designed for?
The eye test is usually done to detect early signs of eye disease by analyzing the tissue in the back of the eye (retina). Scientists have now found that people with thinner retinas are more likely to have problems with memory and reasoning. The researchers believe that the test could be used for the early detection of dementia
32,000 participants were examined for the study
During the examination, parts of the retina and in particular the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) were measured in 32,000 subjects using optical coherence tomography (OCT), the doctors explain. The participants were between the ages of 40 and 69. In addition, memory, response time and reasoning skills were also examined.
Thin retinal nerve fiber layer signs of dementia?
The scientists found that subjects with the thinnest retinal nerve fiber layer more often failed one or more tests. These participants were also twice as likely to receive poorer ratings in follow-up studies over the next three years. Memory loss, difficulty performing common tasks, and other forms of cognitive decline can be early symptoms of dementia. OCT tests could help identify people at high risk for developing the disease, says study author Professor Paul Foster from University College London.
Advantages of OCT tests
A connection between the deterioration of the retina, optic nerves and dementia was already known. The researchers explain that such changes could be detected using OCT tests even in the early stages of cognitive decline. A deterioration of the retina could reflect the changes in the blood vessels in the brain that play a role in the development of the disease, the experts add. Another advantage of OCT tests is that they offer a relatively inexpensive and non-invasive method for screening dementia.
More research is needed
While a diagnosis of dementia is always based on results from a number of different tests, further studies should aim at how sensitive OCT tests can identify people who are most at risk of cognitive decline in the general population, the doctors explain. (As)