The Eyes Are In Focus At The Alzheimer's Association International Conference
Early detection of Alzheimer's disease and strategies to help Alzheimer's patients lead more fulfilling lives are two areas of emphasis at this year's Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, going on now until July 17, 2014. Three papers, so far, have addressed the eyes and Alzheimer's disease (AD); two that focused on early detection of AD through eye exams and one that reported on the importance of cataract surgery to help AD patients remain active and alert. Following is a summary of these new developments....
Two studies were reported that tested the results of eye examinations as possible early signs of AD: one, led by researchers at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Agency, looked for AD biomarkers (beta-amyloid) on the retina; and the other, conducted in the U.S. by Cognoptix Inc., looked for biomarkers on the lens of the eye. Both studies were effective at coorborating AD in those who were already diagnosed by other means, but they also identified participants who had not been previously been diagnosed with the disease. Their new diagnoses were later confirmed by the traditional tests for AD, and the eye tests showed 80 percent coorboration.
Both eye tests indicate that beta-amyloid shows up in the eye, the eye being an extension, if you will, of the brain. The test populations were small, however; 200 participants in the first study and only 40 in the second study. If larger studies are successful, we may be looking at one or more varieties of eye tests for AD that can be performed by optomitrists during our regular eye exams. They would be an ideal means of early detection of the disease.
The third study I referred to above was reported by Dr. Alan Lerner of Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Case Medical Center. It involved 28 AD patients who had cataracts; 20 of those patients had their cataracts surgically removed and 8 patients did not. After six months, the patients who had the cataract surgery not only had improved vision, but they had a slower decline in memory and thinking and showed improvements in behavior (according to their caregivers). In short, their quality of life factors had improved.
This demonstrates, according to the researchers, that tending to an AD patient's 'co-morbidities', be they acuities, such as sight and hearing, or medical needs, is important to the patient's overall health and well being. These are issues that are often overlooked in AD patients, but if the treatments do not pose excessive risk for the patients, researchers support follow-through, as remediation adds to the quality of life of both the patient and the care giver.
All interesting findings, don't you think?