Up until now, the only tests physicians had to actually diagnose Alzheimer’s disease were PET scans and lumbar punctures but these tests are both expensive and invasive. This is why many doctors make their diagnosis of the disease based on observing symptoms and ruling out other causes.
However researchers now think there could be another option with the development of an optical imaging system that can detect a hallmark of the disease. Medical News Today writes that the “non- invasive, high-resolution imaging technique was able to detect beta-amyloid plaques in the retinas of patients with Alzheimer's disease.” The findings indicate that the retinal imaging technique was able to identify a 4.7-times greater abundance of beta-amyloid plaques in the retinas of patients with Alzheimer's disease as compared with the retinas of the controls. The small study was first reported in the JCI Insight journal.
Another study out of Washington University in St. Louis had similar results but researchers caution that both studies are from a very small group of people. Nonetheless it shows that retinal imaging may be a feasible, low-cost screening technique to detect Alzheimer’s in the future. Furthermore, while there is no cure for the disease, scientists say early detection could lead to individuals being treated much earlier and could help to prevent some of the damage done by the disease.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss that impedes one’s ability to manage daily activities such as forgetting recently learned information, repeatedly asking for the same information, and forgetting important events or dates. Other signs are having difficulty problem-solving and completing every-day tasks, confusion with time and place, and vision and spatial problems. Consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of the early signs of the disease. Your doctor will rule out other problems that may be causing your symptoms.
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