Saturday, December 12, 2009
Similarities between amyloid beta deposition in the lens of the eye, and the brain-clogging features of Alzheimer's Disease point to an early detection method for the brain disease using a special florescence test to identify a telltale pattern of lens cloudiness that is different from that found in normal cataracts that are an inevitable consequence of growing old. Dr Goldstein from Brigham Young Hospital in Boston uses an internal ophthalmoscope to detect early protein deposits before any cataract has formed, and then follows up with the fluorescence test to determine whether the deposits are indeed the type associated with Alzheimer's. He figures early detection could lead to better chance of treatment but...who would want to know though? That's always been my question. Since there are no known paths to prevention or cure, knowing you have the disease at a very early stage would be worrying to say the least, if not downright disabling.
In a second eye story, a new genetic eye disease has been discovered that affects the macular and causes central vision loss similar to that seen in macular degeneration. It is surprisingly infrequent that a new genetic disease is discovered. In this case, relatives of sufferers may have other eye problems such as poor alignment of the eyes rather than the macular degeneration which has made the link more difficult to pin down. This macular disease appears to occur much earlier than age-related macular degeneration but it appears to be potentially treatable with the same drugs, VEGF-inhibitors, injected directly into the eye.
It is likely that the eyes will come under more intense focus (no pun intended, oh alright maybe it was intended) as the population ages. Still, though, there is no good way to prevent age related eye diseases that we know of. The only advice we have to live by is, wear sunglasses, eat a balanced diet, watch your blood sugar if you are diabetic, and get your eyes checked regularly. Maybe genetic testing will be added to that list. Eventually.