A non-invasive eye scan that determines retinal thickness could effectively diagnose Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, as most of the disease hallmarks are contained within the brain tissue. However, new research has revealed that the retina of the eye could act as a window into the activities of the brain. The retina shares many features of the brain and is easily accessible for testing. Previous research has identified that changes in the brain function, associated with Alzheimer’s, can affect the thickness of the retina.

Optical Coherence Topography (OCT) was used to map the thickness of the 10 different retinal layers in 19 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 24 volunteers of the same age without Alzheimer’s. All ten retinal layers displayed areas of thinning, and all but two layers showed areas of thickening in the Alzheimer’s patients compared to the volunteers. This shows that changes in retinal layer thickness can provide a strong indication of early stage Alzheimer’s.

OCT can scan the retina in only 2.5 seconds, demonstrating the diagnostic method is fast, low-cost and non-invasive. However, healthcare institutions will need to think carefully about how they can integrate the eye-scan into existing patient care. 

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can enable patients to be refer to treatments quicker that could slow their disease progression. It also ensures that patients can get the specialist care that they require for their condition.