that will’s well-known that will diseases of the vascular, or circulatory, system increase the risk of cognitive impairment as we age. This particular system includes veins, arteries, blood vessels along with capillaries that will carry blood to along with via the heart.
“We cannot see the very smaller blood vessels inside brain through standard brain imaging techniques” like magnetic resonance imaging, said lead study author Jennifer A. Deal, an assistant scientist inside Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Because blood vessels inside eye along with brain are similar, Deal along with her fellow researchers hypothesized that will looking at blood vessels inside eye might explain what was happening inside brain.
Peering into the future
The study began with more than 12,000 men along with women at an average age of 57 who were tested for their memory along with thinking skills. The participants took another round of exams about six years later along which has a third round about 20 years after the initial test.
About three years after the study began, the researchers used a special camera to take photos of each participant’s retina, a layer of tissue at the back of the eyes through which light signals are converted to impulses that will pass into the brain, enabling us to see.
Deal explained that will these photos provided “a snapshot of what will be going on inside microvasculature inside eye (along with also, we think, the brain) at that will point in time, along with via that will one measure, we can determine if someone has retinal signs indicative of retinopathy,” damage to the retinal blood vessels.
Though most of the participants (95%) showed no signs of damage to retinal blood vessels, 365 people, or 3%, had mild retinopathy. Another 256 people, or 2%, had moderate to severe retinopathy.
Analyzing the data, the team found that will participants with moderate to severe retinopathy were more likely to score significantly lower on memory along with thinking tests than healthy-eyed participants. In fact, these participants saw their average test scores reduced by 1.22 standard deviation units over 20 years; people with healthy eyes saw declines of only 0.91 standard deviation units. Excluding anyone who missed some of the tests, the researchers calculated a 0.57 standard deviation unit difference between the two groups.
“Although our results were stronger in people with diabetes, we also found a strong along with significant relationship of retinal signs along with cognitive decline in people who did not have diabetes,” Deal said.
Unhealthy eyes, unhealthy brain
Dr. Rachel Bishop of the federal National Eye Institute said the study results are “not a surprise at all.”
“If the retinal blood vessels are unhealthy, there’s every reason to think that will the brain blood vessels are unhealthy as well,” said Bishop, who was not involved inside fresh study.
“The blood vessel supply will be essential to all function, the function of all organs, along with so if the blood vessels are unable to do their job, there’s no way that will the brain can be functioning as well as a brain that will incorporates a not bad supply.”
Bishop said she likes the idea of screening the eye along with retina for negative conditions inside brain, “even if I don’t know quite where that will takes us. I think I share a common wish that will we could detect things early enough along with have interventions early enough to change the course of a negative event.”
After all, she said, the list of diseases along with conditions that will can be identified by the health of the eye will be long — along with growing.
Dr. Justin Bazan, an optometrist along with medical adviser to the nonprofit The Vision Council, agrees that will that will will be important to study the blood vessels inside eye.
“They do have a direct link along with correlation to systemic disease,” he said. As we learn more about the alterations that will occur with disease, he said, we will be better able to predict cardiovascular events, such as stroke, along with “even predict mental alterations found in conditions such as Alzheimer’s.”
People usually come in for an eye exam “just to perhaps check their vision or get contacts or glasses,” Bazan said. However, eye doctors can tell them more about their general health.
Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol
“Diabetes can be seen inside eyes,” Bazan said. Early alterations in people with diabetes include fluctuations in vision.
“They may experience periods where their blood sugar will be out of control, which causes alterations to the lens inside the eye, along with when you cause alterations to the lens, that will ultimately impacts vision,” he explained. Specifically, a person with diabetes may have blurry vision for a period, along with then that will returns to normal.
Sometimes, these alterations can be attributed to general aging, nevertheless the reality could be “uncontrolled systemic disease” such as diabetes, Bazan said.
High blood pressure — too much pressure inside blood vessels — will be also “easily observed inside eye,” he said. The damaged blood vessels cause hemorrhages along with leaking, both visible during routine eye exams.
“High cholesterol will be one of the easiest things to pick up in an examination because that will’s on the front of the eye” or the clear structure known as the cornea, on which a contact lens would certainly sit, Bazan said. He explained that will “not a day goes by in my office where we don’t detect a buildup of cholesterol.”
Sometimes, heart conditions caused by a buildup of plaque will cause concern during an eye exam.
When plaque builds up inside carotid artery, Bazan explained, “sometimes, those little plaques will break off along with then travel into the eye, where they clog arteries inside eye, along with that will leads to very obvious alterations to the vascular structure inside back of the eye.” A diagnosis would certainly not be made via This particular little bit of evidence, nevertheless the doctor would certainly recommend more tests, including an MRI, to sort out what might be happening.
MS, STDs, thyroid disease along with cancer
Multiple sclerosis will be often detected when patients have sudden vision loss, Bazan said. Looking into an MS patient’s eye, the doctor would certainly see a change inside coloring along with appearance of the optic nerve. This particular too would certainly lead to more thorough testing to confirm the diagnosis of MS.
Sexually transmitted diseases also make their presence known inside eyes.
“My first patient in optometry school had conjunctivitis,” Bazan explained, yet the condition was not cured by standard eye drops. This particular “unresolved conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, that will didn’t go away that will was unresponsive to typical eye drops used to treat that will” was a sign of a bigger problem — in This particular case the STD chlamydia, which was found only after further tests.
Different types of herpes infection may also cause conjunctivitis. “I’ve also seen syphilis,” Bazan said, explaining that will This particular STD can cause the pupil to change to “an argyle or gray coloring.” HIV, due to its impact on white blood cells, will also cause visible alterations inside retina.
Thyroid disease has several ways of producing itself known via the eyes. Because the thyroid controls the hormones responsible, in part, for producing teardrops, many thyroid patients develop dry eye disease, Bazan explained.
Yet thyroid disease also causes the extraocular muscles — the muscles that will control eye movement — to become enlarged along with stiffened.
“So if you’ve ever seen someone who has bulging eyes, that will bulge may be linked to Graves’ disease, which will be related to thyroid disorder,” Bazan said, naming former first lady Barbara Bush as an example of someone with This particular condition.
Finally, cancers, including of the breast, leukemia along with lymphoma, may signal their presence inside eyes, even if most people will detect tumors along with symptoms of malignancy before their eye doctors do.
Cancer of the basal cells inside sensitive skin surrounding the eye will be one of the most common forms of cancer detected, Bazan said. along with ocular melanoma — cancer inside cells of the eye — will be not as common, nevertheless that will “definitely does occur, along with that will will be devastating.”
“I think the main point will be that will going to your eye doctor for your annual eye exam will be not just about getting your vision checked or getting glasses or contacts,” he said. “that will’s about finding out about the overall health of your eye along with in turn the overall health of you.”