Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible neurological disorder that destroys brain cells causing memory to deteriorate. Although there is currently no cure, there are treatments available that can improve quality of life by lessening the impact of symptoms.
Research has revealed that examining the retinal tissue may be one way to detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease early, before symptoms present themselves. It is believed that a brain protein called beta amyloid is responsible for plaque that forms in the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s.
It seems that changes in the inner plexiform layer of the retina can be detected with the use of blue light auto fluorescence. This inner layer of the retina developed at the same time as the brain cells and provides medical professionals with exposed nervous tissue that can be carefully examined in great detail. An increase in the volume of this layer may be a sign of inflammation and that can be correlated to the amount of amyloid on the retina. Amyloid deposits are also found as clusters in the peripheral quadrants of the retina, often along blood vessels, in Alzheimer’s patients. (Watch Dr. Peter J Snyder video outlining his research)
The hope is to develop a screening tool for use in the optometrist’s office that will noninvasively detect and quantify deposits in the retinas of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
This degenerative disease has a significant impact on individuals and their families. If early detection through detailed retinal scans can offer a chance for early intervention and treatment, the potential exists to slow the progression of the disease and perhaps offer hope and longer quality of life. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about this special type of retinal screening.