It appears that the answer to this question could definitely be yes. According to recent findings from a study done at Georgetown University and the University of Hong Kong, an eye exam could be a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to diagnose and track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at Georgetown and Hong Kong University examined the retinas of mice that were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s. They noted that two layers of the retina (one previously unstudied) in the eyes of the mice were significantly less dense than that of normal mice. The two layers lost between 37 and 49 percent of neurons. R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, explained that this loss made sense. He said, “The retina is an extension of the brain so it makes sense to see if the same pathologic process found in an Alzheimer’s brain is also found in the eye.”
This discovery is a promising step forward in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, it was difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s patients until there was already a significant loss in brain functionality. And in order to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s early on, patents only options were expensive and often invasive. The two most common were PET CT scans and cerebrospinal fluid tests. However, eye exams are inexpensive and non-invasive. If the findings hold true for humans as well as mice, doctors will be able to easily diagnose Alzheimer’s early on and begin treatment in its earliest stages, which is critical for successful treatment. Keep an eye out for updates on the progress of this exciting discovery! Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/golo_undertow/3590904689/