While there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s, early treatment can help make outcomes less severe. Most conventional screening methods are either too expensive or catch the disorder when it’s too far along for effective treatment. However, a recent study has shown that retinal scans may be able to catch Alzheimer’s early on.

For this study, a new type of retinal scan was examined. It’s called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA). OCTA looks at the size of the veins in the back of the eye. The idea is that, since the retina is connected to the brain by the optic nerve, the condition of the blood vessels in the retina may mirror the changes going on in the brain. This can provide a window into the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers used OCTA to measure three groups of people. There were people with Alzheimer’s, those who had mild cognitive impairment (but no diagnosis of Alzheimer’s/dementia), and people with usual cognitive function. They found that the Alzheimer’s group had a loss of blood vessels at the back of the eye. They also found that this group had a thinning the retina. The other two groups did not have such differences

This new scanning method could go a long way to providing a widely-available way to catch disease progression early. Though, more study is needed to make certain it’s useful in a clinical setting.


O’Bryhim, Bliss Elizabeth, et al. “Association of Preclinical Alzheimer Disease With OCT Angiographic Findings.” Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, 1 Nov. 2018, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/article-abstract/2697402.

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