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Eyes May Show Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Thursday, May 18th 2023 10:00am 3 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive and degenerative disorder of the brain, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States and approximately 50 million people worldwide. Early detection of AD is crucial for developing new treatments and interventions to improve patient outcomes. Recent research suggests that changes in the eyes may show early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. In this article, we will explore the research surrounding the relationship between AD and the eyes, including imaging techniques, biomarkers, and potential diagnostic tools.

Imaging techniques:

One way to detect early signs of AD is through the use of imaging techniques, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT is a non-invasive imaging technique that can provide high-resolution images of the retina, optic nerve, and choroid. Recent studies have found that OCT can detect thinning of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a known precursor to AD. A study conducted by Kwapong et al. (2021) found that individuals with MCI had significantly thinner RNFL thickness compared to healthy controls. Furthermore, the study found that the thinning of the RNFL was more severe in individuals with MCI who progressed to AD compared to those who did not.

Biomarkers:

Another way to detect early signs of AD is through the identification of biomarkers. Biomarkers are measurable indicators that can help identify individuals who may be at risk for developing AD. Recent research has focused on identifying biomarkers in the eyes, specifically in the form of amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques. Aβ plaques are a hallmark of AD and can accumulate in the retina and optic nerve. In a study conducted by La Morgia et al. (2021), researchers found that individuals with AD had significantly higher levels of Aβ in the retina compared to healthy controls. Additionally, the study found that individuals with MCI also had higher levels of Aβ in the retina compared to healthy controls, suggesting that Aβ accumulation may occur early in the disease process.

Potential diagnostic tools:

The use of imaging techniques and biomarkers in the eyes has led to the development of potential diagnostic tools for AD. One such tool is the NeuroEyeCoach, which is a visual training program designed to improve eye movement and visual attention in individuals with AD. A study conducted by Yu et al. (2020) found that the NeuroEyeCoach was effective in improving visual attention and executive function in individuals with AD. Furthermore, the study found that the program was able to improve memory and language abilities, suggesting that the visual training program may have a positive impact on overall cognitive function.

Another potential diagnostic tool is the use of pupillary response testing. Pupillary response testing involves measuring the diameter of the pupils in response to light stimuli. Recent research has found that individuals with AD have reduced pupillary responses compared to healthy controls. A study conducted by Karakosta et al. (2021) found that individuals with AD had reduced pupillary responses to light stimuli, suggesting that pupillary response testing may be a useful diagnostic tool for AD.

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