Can a 10-Minute Eye Exam Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

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Alzheimer’s disease is commonly diagnosed by positron emission tomography scans, with 85% accuracy. However, few patients are tested because the scans are costly and require injection of a radioactive drug. So what if a simple eye exam could detect the disease?

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are studying a retina camera and accompanying software to find if it can identify amyloid plaques in the back of the eye that could indicate Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike the injections, the eye exam would be painless.

The exam uses hyperspectral imaging to identify biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease. With this method, the camera can detect bits of plaque and changes in retinal blood vessels and thinning retinal nerve fibers. It only takes 10 minutes to complete and can be done by a physician. The exam would be done in your regular eye doctor’s office; their retinal camera would be modified with the new camera and software. If anything relating to Alzheimer’s disease is detected, the patient’s primary care physician or neurologist is contacted.

The exam is being tested over the next 18 months on 50 people with mild cognitive impairment and 50 controls. The study is part of a bigger 5-year Alzheimer’s research project.

You can read more here.

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