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Simple eye examination could spot early signs of dementia

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Blog

Research has found that a simple eye test could predict who is at the most risk of developing dementia. This new study explored the link between the thickness of the retina and mental function, such as memory. It was found that people who have thin retinas are twice as likely to suffer from a mental decline in the next three years than those who have retinas of average thickness. These people were also twice as likely to have mild problems with reasoning and memory in the present.

This trial has been the largest of its kind and used data from 32,000 people aged 40 to 69 who had an eye test available at NHS opticians. The study measured parts of the retina, particularly the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL), tested their memory, reaction times and reasoning. This research has increased hopes that more early steps can be taken towards tackling dementia.

Paul Foster from the University College London said: “Our findings undoubtedly suggest that the retinal abnormalities begin to manifest in the early stages of cognitive decline.”

Despite these findings, continued research is vital. Doctors from Alzheimer’s Research UK have said that the eye can be used as a window into the early brain changes of those that are set to develop in dementia. They also suggested it would be interesting to see whether further studies continue to show that a greater risk of cognitive decline is associated with an increased risk of dementia. In light of this research, Alzheimer’s Research UK are also co funding a study to analyse eye scans to look for any additional features that can indicate the presence of dementia.

As eye tests are easier to perform than brain scans, it could mean they become a useful part of the diagnosis process in the future. If it is found that your eye health is a factor in developing dementia, it could mean a much earlier and accurate diagnosis of the disease.

To find out more about dementia, or if you know someone who may be in need of care from us at Kare Plus, visit  Alzheimer’s Research UK or take a look at our dementia Care Services page.

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