Dementia is a common disorder globally and refers to the decline of mental aptitude, which is bad enough to interfere with daily activities. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s, and while Alzheimer’s is a specific illness, dementia is not.

Dementia comes with symptoms that cause memory decline and flawed thinking and reasoning skills. Dementia exists in many types and forms and is caused by several conditions. Mixed dementia is a condition where someone has more than one type of dementia simultaneously. However, Alzheimer’s accounts for up to 80% of dementia-related illnesses. 

Alzheimer’s Overview

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) refers to a complex degenerative brain ailment that occurs after brain cell damage that causes complex brain changes. It later causes dementia symptoms that get worse with time. Its most common early signs are trouble with memory and learning, which affect the hippocampus part of the brain. 

As the disease progresses, symptoms worsen and may elevate to mind disorientation, confusion, and change in behavior. In the end, the person might even have trouble performing essential functions like speaking, swallowing, and even walking. Currently, AD has no known vaccine, cure, or way to slow its progression. 

Note that although AD’s top risk factor is old age, it’s not a part of normal aging. Similarly, although most people with AD are over 65 years old, 200,000 American AD patients under 65 live with a younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Connection to Eye Health

A study by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, revealed that regular visits to your professional eye caregiver could reveal clues about impending dementia or AD. 

Since AD causes brain degeneration due to abnormal protein build-up that kills brain cells, it affects several connections among neurons. Some Alzheimer’s-caused dementia symptoms also include eyesight problems like decreased peripheral vision, spatial relationships, color discrimination, poor depth reception, and issues with object recognition. 

Currently, the only existing diagnoses for AD are brain autopsies. An eye exam can predict the presence of dementia and AD long before symptoms appear, providing caregivers more time to slow the disease’s progression. 

Therefore, routine eye exams are essential for visual health and provide information about many other health conditions. This ranges from issues with cognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease infections, and inflammation. 

When a doctor performs an eye test, they have the advantage of seeing into the body through a non-invasive method that gives information about many of the most feared health disorders today before the appearance of symptoms. 

Our eyes are a Window into the brain

The secret to detecting most of these diseases lies in the precision of the tests. During an eye exam to detect Alzheimer’s, the ophthalmologist or optometrist checks for visual acuity, side vision, and movements of the eye and evaluates eye pressure, eye topography, and the condition of the retina optic nerves.  

These tests can thus reveal damaged elements on retinal blood vessels that reflect a wide prevalence of abnormalities that affect the brain and other vital organs. 

Tom MacGillivray of the University of Edinburg previously received up to $488,997 to develop an all-inclusive eye scan system that analyzes various biomarkers in the eye to spot brain degeneration. He told the IEEE Spectrum that by using it, they can look into the brain through its natural window, the eye. 

The comprehensive scanning process includes using image scanning software and machine learning components that analyze images from scanning equipment provided in optical offices. Teaming up with Sharon Fekrat of Duke University, Tom sought to measure variations in the tiny blood vessels leading to the brain behind the eye. It also checks for eye layers that might have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Reporting on the results, they stated that a loss in retinal blood vessels could signal the presence of Alzheimer’s. From their study of more than 200 people, the team reported a different view of healthy brains, which displayed a dense web of blood vessels in the back of the eye. AD patients showed a less dense and sparse blood vessel web. 

Duke University’s ophthalmologist statement states that since the eye is retinal clear, it’s a unique organ as it permits direct imaging to the back eye layer. He called the eye a ‘brain extension’. 

In addition, blood vessels that are invisible to a regular eye can be measured using this new technology. Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA) is a technology that takes high-resolution images of the tiniest blood vessels occurring within the retina. This enables the exposure of the slightest cognitive changes. 

It also checks every layer of the retina for blood flow changes and maps them to measure their thickness non-invasively. OCTA traces retinal differences that signal early hindrances of brain activities that suggest a brain condition like dementia. 

Several studies have been conducted using OCTA technology to evaluate dementia effects, and the results are accurate in determining the presence of the disorder. 

The research by Duke University involving 200 participants, for example, concluded that people showing Alzheimer’s symptoms had significantly lost blood vessels in their retina. Also, some retinal layers in the back of the eye were thinner among people with Alzheimer’s than those with mild cognitive impairment. 

In speculation, scientists have found that retinal changes indicate a disruption of blood vessels to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This hypothesis is valid, provided the eye is connected to the brain via the optic nerve. 

Even among people at genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s, their retinas seemed thinner. The same is the case with their hippocampus, a vital brain section responsible for learning and memory. Both of these dementia signs are correlated with poor scores in cognitive impairment tests.

Competitive Advantage

Presently, diagnosing Alzheimer’s and dementia is quite challenging, as it only involves ruling out other effects rather than sleuthing the problem. This includes brain tests for memory and thinking and brain imaging scans. 

However, at Cognes, we offer a competitive advantage in diagnosis and dementia control. Our services are highly cost-efficient and scalable in different forms. We provide genetic analysis to cater to predictive tests and invasive cognitive tests for early detection. 

We are also patient-friendly because our eye tests are fully non-invasive and take less time, plus some of our tests are easily self-administered. The Cognes technology is also efficient in identifying many biomarkers for dementia and AD at levels that give doctors more time to slow the development of these disorders.