Can an eye exam predict dementia?

Can an eye exam predict dementia?

You may have heard that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul but in this case, they may be telling us much more about the individual’s brain.

Researchers at the Gladstone Institutes and University of California, San Francisco recently studied a group of individuals known to have the genetic mutation that causes frontotemporal dementia or FTD. Prior to any display of cognitive symptoms of the disorder, the individuals showed with a significant thinning of the retina as compared to individuals without the mutation.

“If we follow these patients over time, we may be able to correlate a decline in retinal thickness with disease progression,” says lead author Dr. Michael Ward, in a statement. “In addition, we may be able to track the effectiveness of a treatment through a simple eye examination.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, frontotemporal dementia, previously called Pick’s disease accounts for up to 50 percent of dementia cases in individuals younger than 65. There is no known risk factor outside of a family history of the disease.

Dr. Harit K. Bhatt, an ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center, in Oak Lawn, Ill., says discovering vision problems sooner than later, is essential to keeping your vision strong.

“It’s important for everyone over 40 years of age to have a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilation,” he says. “Dilation of the eye is done using eye drops and allows proper examination of the retina.”

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.