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Eye exam may reveal brain health


Screening for retinopathy, a disease of blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, could be a good marker for brain health. Researchers have found that women over age 65 even with just a mild form of the disease were more likely to have cognitive decline and vascular changes in the brain.

This means a simple eye test could look for signs of retinopathy and indicate people at a higher risk for cognitive disorders. Earlier diagnosis and treatments could slow the progression of the neurological disorders that lead to dementia.

Researchers analyzed data on 511 women, average age 69, at the start of a ten year program. Women underwent eye exams, brain scans, as well as cognition assessment that tested short-term memory and thinking ability.

During the follow-up 7.6% of the participants developed retinopathy and their scores on cognition test were worse than others who did not develop the eye disease. The doctors also discovered that women with retinopathy had more damage in the brain blood vessels. They had 47% more ischemic lesions or holes in the overall blood vessel structure, 68% of them were in the parietal lobe.

They also discovered more thickening of the white matter tracks that transmit signals in the brain. These are generally thought to be related to high blood pressure.

However, in good news, retinopathy was not linked to brain atrophy which is indicative of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the eye disease may not be a good marker for that type of dementia.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Neurology

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