Eyes and Your Brain
The brain plays a critical role in every single function that our bodies perform. The connection between the brain and our eyes has always been an area of study for ophthalmologists and neurologists alike. Everything we see is sent to our brain for processing, which turns it into images that we can understand and identify. The optic nerve is connected directly to our brain, so is it possible that this connection can tell us more?
Research has shown that it is possible to detect diseases in the brain from examining our eyes. This is because the retina and the optic nerve indicate to the examining physician when something is wrong. Research also suggests that there could be a connection between the brain and the eyes relating to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. This is because damaged brain tissue causes both of these neurological disorders, potentially impacting the retina as well.
Alzheimer's and the Brain
Alzheimer's is a degenerative neural disease caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain. The disease progresses by killing cells and damaging connections between neurons. Most people are familiar with the symptoms, which include memory loss, difficulty thinking, and other signs of cognitive decline. Additional symptoms can include vision problems such as trouble with depth perception and spatial relationships. Diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease is made possible through a series of cognitive tests that rule out the possibility of other neural conditions. The difficulty of diagnosing Alzheimer's is the driving force behind the brain-eye connection research being conducted today. Could a detailed eye examination detect brain disease? Thorough eye exams have already detected other diseases, so why not diseases in the brain?
As previously mentioned, Alzheimers and dementia seem to affect the retina according to an influx of new research. Many of these retinal changes are revealed using a test called optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT is a standard test, and most eye doctors have the equipment readily available for their patients.
As new research continues to emerge, the eye-brain connection could potentially lead to new discoveries and testing for many diseases, not just Alzheimer's. Although the research is promising, there have not been any discoveries significant enough to change the way doctors are currently treating patients. As always, be sure to attend your annual routine eye exam as recommended by your eye doctor. Prevention and early detection are the best medicine.