Scientists can use blood vessels in the eyes to detect the memory of Alzheimer's disease, as a study shows that lower amounts may indicate early stages

Look through the eyes to see Alzheimer's disease: fewer blood vessels behind the eyeball can be an early sign of the memory-poisoning disease, scientists say

  • A lower amount of capillaries can be seen in the imaging of the back of the eye
  • Scientists say this indicates inflammation in the brain
  • They hope that one day it will be used to recognize the first signs of the disease

Scientists were able to count blood vessels in people's eyes to discover early signs of the memory-depriving disease, Alzheimer's disease.

A study found that people with early signs of cognitive decline had a noticeably smaller number of capillaries in the back of their eyes than healthy people.

The finding adds to past evidence that suggests that changes in the small blood vessels can be a window to changes in the brain.

Research in this area is still in its infancy, but scientists said an eye test could one day be used to recognize Alzheimer's at an early stage.


Scientists can use blood vessels in the eyes to detect the memory of Alzheimer's disease, as a study shows that lower amounts may indicate early stages

Scientists can use blood vessels in the eyes to detect the memory of Alzheimer's disease, as a study shows that lower amounts may indicate early stages

Northwestern University in Chicago recruited 32 participants who went through brain research to see how good their memory was.

Those with cognitive decline were linked to people of the same age, gender, and race whose cognitive (brain) health was good.


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.

It is the cause of 60 to 70 percent of cases of dementia.

The majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 years and older.


More than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.

It is unknown what causes Alzheimer's disease. Those who have the APOE gene are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease with late onset.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty in remembering newly learned information
  • disorientation
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
  • More serious memory loss
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking

Stages of Alzheimer's disease:

  • Mild form of Alzheimer's (early phase) – A person may function independently, but has memory loss
  • Moderate Alzheimer's (middle phase) – Typically the longest phase, the person can confuse words, get frustrated or get angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
  • Severe Alzheimer's disease (late stage) – In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, have a conversation, and ultimately control movement

There is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, but experts suggest physical exercise, social interaction and adding brain-boosting omega-3 fats to your diet to prevent or delay the onset of symptoms.


All persons had imaging in the eye and those with cognitive impairment had fewer capillaries in their retina than those who did not.

The team led by Dr. Sandra Weintraub, published their findings in PLoS One.

The back of the eye can be seen with the new technology OCT angiography that can show capillary changes in detail.

It is able to reflect what is happening in the brain because an inflammation damages the small blood vessels, Dr. said. Weintraub Quartz.

The retina and the brain are connected through the optic nerve.


Dr. Weintraub said: & # 39; The retina is a direct extension of your brain. It actually has neuronal cells. & # 39;

Senior author professor Amani Fawzi said: Once our results have been validated, this approach may provide an additional type of biomarker to identify individuals who are at high risk of developing into Alzheimer's disease.

& # 39; These individuals can then be followed closely and may be the main candidates for new therapies aimed at slowing the progression of the disease or preventing the onset of dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease. & # 39 ;

Alzheimer's therapies are more effective if they are started before extensive brain damage and cognitive decline have begun, Professor Fawzi said.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease have a reduced retinal blood flow and vascular density.


But only recently have studies shown that these changes are also present in people with early Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment who are at a higher risk of continuing to dementia.

A slightly larger study by Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina, compared the retina of 200 people with either Alzheimer's, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and healthy people with normally functioning brains.

Alzheimer's patients had fewer blood vessels and decreased blood flow compared to both healthy controls and people with mild cognitive impairment.

A specific layer of their retina-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye – was also thinner.

But in this study, published in Ophthalmology Retina, there was no difference in blood vessels between MCI and healthy controls.

It was not clear whether the retina changed or the onset of Alzheimer's came first.

However, lead author Professor Sharon Fekra said: & # 39; If we can detect these changes in the retinal blood vessel before cognitive changes occur, that would be a game changer. & # 39;

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and affects around 500,000 Britons. Scientists have still not determined what the cause is and there is still a cure to be found.

The focus of the research is on developing techniques that can capture the condition at an earlier stage.

Normally, by the time a patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia is irreversible damage that causes symptoms of forgetfulness, confusion, and problems with normal tasks.


Current diagnostic tools for Alzheimer's are normally pen and paper tests.


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease, where accumulation of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the senders that send messages and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death.



When brain cells die, the functions they offer are lost.

That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some can be ten to fifteen years old.


  • Loss of short-term memory
  • disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties in handling money or making a phone call


  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close relatives, trusted objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated about the inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • Ultimately, losing the ability to walk
  • May have problems with food
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer's & # 39; s Association

. (TagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) health