New Research from Sydney: The Eyes Are An Early Warning System For Dementia

We have known for some time that the eye can be the first part of the body to show evidence of disease. The small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye are some of the most fragile in the body. As such, they are often the first to show signs of damage from disease, such as with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The retinal blood vessels can give us an early warning system for things such as stroke, and the eye may soon be able to provide a similar warning system for individuals likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Promising new research from Sydney’s Macquarie University has shown that the early stages of dementia may be identifiable in the eye up to 20 years before the onset of symptoms. Research and clinical trials are being conducted in the United States and also in Sydney at Macquarie University using new retinal imaging technology.

Damage to the brain in Alzheimer’s disease can begin up to 20 years before the first symptoms show, but damage to blood vessels in the brain is difficult to detect using current technology. The theory behind using retinal imaging technology is that the microvasculature of the retina will mirror changes to the small blood vessels in the brain in early dementia. Advances in retinal scanning technology in recent years means that we can now detect small changes in the retinal blood vessels.

This research into links between Alzheimer’s disease and the eye is promising. Early detection of the disease many years before the onset of symptoms will be the first step towards cure and prevention.

For further information on this ground-breaking research from Sydney’s Macquarie University, visit Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation