It has long been the case that no diagnosis was possible for Alzheimer’s until you had an autopsy. Then, researchers found that they could do PET scans and draw cerebrospinal fluid to check for biomarkers of the disease. Both of these tests are expensive and invasive. They have not proven practical as a way to evaluate someone’s risk for Alzheimer’s.

Now, scientists have discovered that an eye exam may provide indication for the likelihood that someone will develop Alzheimer’s. This test is much less invasive and can provide information many years earlier in the progression of the disease then would otherwise be the case. A team of researchers at Cedars Sinai Medical Center Department of Neurosurgery discovered that the beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease in your brain also appear in retinal scans.

They gave participants curcumin, the bright yellow ingredient in turmeric. It attaches to beta-amyloid plaques and will cross the retinal barrier. Researchers learned that the plaques are visible in the retinas of study participants and the amounts of the plaques correlated with the level of plaques found in their brains using PET scans.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Scientist do not know for sure that the presence of these plaques guarantee the development of the disease, but there is a strong correlation between the two. If you are found to have significant number of plaques, a number of lifestyle factors you can manage further development of the disease. Things like exercise and diet are two major factors.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.

Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones.  He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio.  He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.