Eye scan predicting Parkinson’s disease.

Eye scan predicting Parkinson's disease.

Eye Scans Could Help Detect Parkinson’s Disease Years Before Diagnosis

Eye Scan The eyes might hold the key to spotting signs of Parkinson’s. AzmanL/Getty Images

Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that affects the ability to move, is believed to be linked to disturbances in the gut microbiome. The early symptoms of the disease develop gradually, making it difficult to diagnose. However, recent research from Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology has discovered specific eye markers that indicate Parkinson’s disease, which can be detected an average of seven years before an official diagnosis is made.

Using artificial intelligence to analyze data from retinal eye scans, researchers identified differences in two layers of the inner retina – the ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer and the inner nuclear layer. These differences in thickness are associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

The eye scans were conducted using optical coherence tomography (OCT), a non-invasive imaging technique that generates cross-sectional images of the retina. OCT allows doctors to see the layers of the retina and measure their thickness, helping in the diagnosis of various diseases related to the eye.

Dr. Siegfried Wagner, the lead author of the study, explained that the eye is an accessible window into the brain, as it houses cells that use the neurotransmitter dopamine. Previous studies have shown that retinal tissue in people with Parkinson’s disease often exhibits features of dopamine cell loss. However, this study is unique as it observed these changes in live imaging, rather than through histological studies of cadaveric tissue.

While these findings are promising, it is important to note that this research is still in its early stages. Dr. Wagner emphasized that further work is needed to translate these findings into individual risk stratification and to develop high-dimensional modeling approaches for predicting Parkinson’s disease.

The potential of using eye scans as a non-invasive method for early detection is revolutionary. Dr. Daniel Truong, a neurologist and medical director of The Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Institute, believes that detecting markers of Parkinson’s disease through eye scans could open up new avenues for early interventions. However, Dr. Truong cautioned that more research is needed to understand how these findings will be implemented in real-world clinical settings.

Dr. Howard R. Krauss, a surgical neuro-ophthalmologist, echoed these sentiments and stressed the importance of regular eye examinations. He pointed out that while OCT scans can provide valuable insights into eye health and broader health conditions, they cannot definitively predict Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Krauss emphasized the value of ophthalmic signs found during clinical examinations, such as dry eye and difficulties with reading, as indicators of early-stage Parkinson’s disease.

In conclusion, the discovery of specific eye markers indicating Parkinson’s disease through OCT scans is a significant development. It offers the potential for early detection and intervention, possibly altering the course of the disease or improving symptom management. However, more research is required to fully understand and implement these findings. Regular eye examinations by ophthalmologists or neuro-ophthalmologists remain crucial for identifying signs of Parkinson’s disease and other systemic conditions.