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  • Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia sit inside an Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City April 19, 2012.

    Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia sit inside an Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City April 19, 2012. | Photo: Reuters FILE

Published 31 October 2018

The common method for diagnosing patients with Alzheimer’s currently consists of using memory tests and following changes in a person's behavior.

Two new studies being presented at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO 2018), suggest that an eye-scan can help to detect Alzheimer’s disease in seconds.

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“This project meets a huge unmet need (...) It’s not possible for current techniques like a brain scan or lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to screen the number of patients with this disease. Almost everyone has a family member or extended family affected by Alzheimer’s. We need to detect the disease earlier and introduce treatments earlier,” professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University, Sharon Fekrat, explained.

The current common method for diagnosing patients with Alzheimer’s involves using memory tests and monitoring changes in people's behavior. A major problem with the method is: while the tracking is taking place, valuable time to treat early onset of the illness passes and other complications may arise during this period.

The eye-scan proposed by scientists to diagnose Alzheimer’s would implement coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to examine the effects of dementia over the retina.

The technology allows the researchers to examine the different layers which make up the eye, down to the smallest veins and red blood cells present in the back of the eye. Normally, people with Alzheimer’s will show a loss of small blood vessels in the back of the eye.

According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study - which took population studies in Brazil, Peru, Chile, Cuba and Venezuela - the global prevalence is 7.1 percent. For the region, it is expected that the incidence of Alzheimer's will rise from the 7.8 million recorded instances, in 2013, to more than 27 million by 2050.

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