Scientists have found that people with thin retinas are more likely to develop dementia in later years
By Martin Bagot Health And Science Correspondent 08:27, 24 JUL 2018
The thickness of the retina can predict a decline in brain power, an eye test study has proved. Scientists found that people with thin retinas were twice as likely to perform poorly in subtle tests on everyday memory, reaction time and reasoning.
When tested again three years later, these people were also twice as likely to have suffered mental decline. Separate research building on the breakthrough findings shows the changes can be tracked to predict full-blown dementia nearly a decade later.
Experts hope drugs or lifestyle changes, such as quitting booze and smoking, could slow or even halt onset of the disease in those identified as at risk. Prof Paul Foster, lead study author, said: “We now know we need to find people at the earliest stages before the brain is irreparably damaged.“ The hope is that either a drug or lifestyle Cheap and simple blood test can diagnose Alzheimer’s EIGHT YEARS before symptoms start “The combination of the two studies showing the increased risk I think does put it beyond doubt. There is unquestionably a link between changes in the retina and changes in people’s mental state.”
Researchers at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital used UK Biobank data on OCT scans, which measure the thickness of a layer of neurons on the retina. The landmark study looked at 32,000 apparently healthy people aged 40 to 69 who had undergone the eye test, available at NHS opticians.
Prof Foster, a world-leading eye specialist, said: “This is even before pre-dementia. It is very mild cognitive impairment like forgetting the number of your local takeaway. “Things that in the past they would’ve been able to dredge up from their memory. It’s about one in 20 who struggles a bit more with that kind of recall.”
The second paper, published by the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands, followed 5,000 people with an average age of 69. Over eight years, 86 developed dementia. Those with a thin retina were 44% more likely to do so.