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Can an Eye Exam Reveal Your Risk for Alzheimer’s?

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It’s typical to worry about the health of your brain. Every time you forget a name or can’t remember where you put your keys, you may wonder if it means something. Usually, these forgetful moments are just an indication that you’re tired or preoccupied. So are there any genuine clues that point to information about your brain health?

It’s possible that the results of your eye exam could provide these clues. See this as another important reason to book an eye exam at Turner Eye Institute – we have eye care centers located conveniently in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California.

Recent research on detecting Alzheimer’s

Despite so many advances in medical technology, an affordable, dependable test for Alzheimer’s is still missing. However, recent studies and $30 million from Bill Gates may change the situation. In October 2019, a Toronto startup licensed researchers at the University of Minnesota to develop a technology to spot the early signs or predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease by using retinal scans and digital eye exams. Where did this idea come from?

The concept of eye exams as a diagnostic tool for dementia comes from recent studies that have associated common eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The link between eye conditions and cardiovascular disease

In an interesting twist, cataracts are one eye disease that has shown no link to Alzheimer’s, and scientists believe it’s because cataracts are not connected in any way to cardiovascular disease, in contrast to the other eye diseases:

  • Glaucoma, which involves higher-than-normal intraocular pressure, has been associated with poor blood circulation, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Age-related macular degeneration, another common ocular disease, has links with heart disease.
  • Diabetic retinopathy occurs as the result of damage caused to the retina by high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In general, diabetes and cardiovascular problems are strongly connected.

Eye disease & Alzheimer’s

In 1994, a study called “The Adult Changes in Thought,” was initiated and included 5,400 adults who were dementia-free. The study participants were monitored until they died, developed dementia, or chose to leave the study. In 2019, results of the study were analyzed and published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. It was discovered that:

  • People with age-related macular degeneration were 20% more likely to develop dementia than people without this eye disease.
  • People with a recent diagnosis of glaucoma had a 44% higher rate of dementia.

Other studies presented at the annual American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in 2018, suggested that the early signs of Alzheimer’s can be detected by an eye exam before the patient is exhibiting any symptoms of the brain disease. How? OCT scans revealed that people with Alzheimer’s had thinner retinal tissue with fewer blood vessels than people with healthy brains. tissue. These findings may enable earlier treatment intervention for people at a high risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eye exams as a way to predict and prevent dementia

Now that research has established a possible link between eye disease and brain health, the question remains – what can you learn from this information? The way we see it, these results underscore the need for everyone to get regular eye exams. Retinal scans and digital eye exams, which can evaluate blood flow patterns in the eye, can reveal a lot about your overall health – in addition to inspecting for the signs of ocular conditions that require treatment.

In our eye care centers in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California, we use the latest technologies, including advanced digital eye exams that provide highly precise results. If an ocular disease is suspected, we may perform a retinal scan to obtain a clearer, more detailed view of your inner eye tissues.

When our eye doctors perform a digital eye exam or retinal scan, we see much more than just the state of your vision. The signs of a health condition, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or hypertension, are often apparent. If we detect these signs, we will recommend lifestyle changes and therapies to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, treating high blood pressure, lowering elevated cholesterol levels, eating nutritiously, sleeping enough, and exercising can all lower your chances of heart disease – which may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s too.

So while eye exams as a reliable tool for predicting or diagnosing Alzheimer’s may still be five to ten years away, your health still has a lot to gain from visiting our eye doctor in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California, for a comprehensive eye exam!

At Turner Eye Institute, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 800-339-2733 or book an appointment online to see one of our San Leandro eye doctors.

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