The percentage of elderly people in the United States is growing rapidly, and the illnesses and diseases associated with aging are growing rapidly as well. Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, has been taking a greater toll on our society in recent years. The devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have touched almost all of us, whether through our own family member or the family member of a friend.
It is well-known that most illnesses and diseases have a greater likelihood of a positive outcome if they are diagnosed early. Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed using a set of memory tests and by tracking behavioral changes. However, since the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progress slowly, it is often not diagnosed until the disease has progressed quite far.
Other tests used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease are either invasive, costly, or potentially dangerous. For example, brain scans are extremely expensive, and spinal taps are both invasive and potentially dangerous. Although these tests can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, they are not usually not used.
For these reasons, researchers are working hard to devise newer and better tests for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in its early stages.
Recently, researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina found evidence to suggest that Alzheimer’s disease could be diagnosed in just a few seconds by examining a person’s eyes. Research by scientists at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel discovered a similar result.
At the 122nd annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, held in Chicago, Illinois, these two sets of research were presented.
By using a novel, noninvasive imaging technique, the scientists from both North Carolina and Israel determined that they can distinguish between people with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and people without any signs of cognitive impairment.
It is important to note that mild cognitive impairment is a condition that often precedes Alzheimer’s disease. This implies that a test for early recognition of Alzheimer’s disease may soon be available.
The North Carolina researchers used a technique called optical coherence tomography angiography to examine each of the retina’s layers in order to map them and measure their thickness. The researchers discovered that people with Alzheimer’s disease lost small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, and that a particular layer of the retina was thinner in people with Alzheimer’s disease than in people with mild cognitive impairment, or people who did not have any form of cognitive impairment.
The Israeli researchers examined 400 people who had a genetically high risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The researchers examined brain scans and retina images from these people and compared them with retina images and brain scans of people without a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Their study revealed a similar finding: a specific layer of the retina was thinner in people with a higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s.
Both sets of researchers stressed the importance of this new result. Although a brain scan can detect Alzheimer’s disease, it can only do so when the disease is well beyond the treatable phase. The new test, involving only an eye scan, would allow early recognition of people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which would enable doctors to begin intervention at an earlier stage of the disease’s development.
At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, we are experts in handling Alzheimer’s and dementias.
We have created a unique environment and care program specifically designed to address the needs of this population. Our Alzheimer’s Unit is situated in a separate, secure wing to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. It offers a structured daily routine, mind-stimulating activities, excellent social interaction, with optimal patient independence in a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.