Alzheimer's is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that can have serious consequences for the sufferer and his/her family. Early detection can make it easier to cope with the symptoms and the onset of this disease. But how do people test for dementia like Alzheimer's? Apart from viewing the memory loss and additional symptoms, the state of your eyes and your teeth could be the clues to whether Alzheimer's is about to set in. Read on to know more about how the disease such as dementia can be detected using eye and dental checkups.
Eye Testing for Alzheimer's
According to studies, a simple eye test results in early detection of Alzheimer's disease before symptoms like memory loss develop. The test for change in eyes can have a serious impact on early detection of Alzheimer's. According to research by the Australian Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization, when used along with blood testing that spots changes linked with the development of Alzheimer's disease. This noninvasive cost-effective test is the perfect tool for early and reliable detection o Alzheimer's. This is as per the Alzheimer Association International Conference held in the year 2011. Considering that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, it is counted as the most common form of dementia.
Imaging scans use a PET or positron emission tomography and MRI to detect brain modifications associated with Alzheimer's dementia before the memory loss and additional disorder symptoms are possible. But these are costly and not suited for a wide range of the population. Retina tissues are closely linked to the brain. The retina is the part of the eye which is sensitive to light. Closely related to brain tissues, these are much easier to access. In one study, retinal snaps of those with Alzheimer's was tested against those with milder cognitive problems and healthy people in research on aging. The subjects also underwent PET scans to measure Alzheimer's linked plaque formation in the brain.
Researchers used cams that eye doctors apply for evaluating patient's eyes, along with special software to measure the characteristics of blood vessels in the retina apart from their width.
Eye Changes and Brain Plaque
The study showed that certain types of blood vessels had a width considerably different in those with Alzheimer's to other participants and the variance was the same as the plaque amount seen on the scans. A close link exists between Alzheimer's disease, retinal changes, and aggregation of plaque in the brain.
This is, however, not the only eye test for developing a detection system for Alzheimer's. Harvard scientists have developed optical tests looking for amyloid beta which is a protein that constitutes Alzheimer's plaque in the lens of the eye. Researchers have been looking at how the onset of the disease can be predicted with molecular changes in the eye structure. Another question people need to find an answer to is whether they are at risk for the disease, which can only be managed, not cured.
Sans early detection, even treatment, and management become harder. Some promising drugs may fail in research as the studies involved people at advanced stages of Alzheimer's. As doctors work towards preventing and treating the disease, the pieces of the puzzle need to be put together and this is why early detection is critical.
Therefore, those concerned that they may be developing early signs of dementia should ask eye doctors to have a look during a regular exam. Studies at the International Conference of Alzheimer's Association in the Danish city of Copenhagen indicate Alzheimer's disease may show up when it comes to the eyes. This could offer prompt treatment and management, apart from giving patients a chance to plan their lives. There are also treatments for symptoms that are more impactful if they are implemented early in the disease process.
Current clinical tests for Alzheimer's only find the disease when it is at a fairly advanced stage. These include studying deviance in the level of proteins in the spinal fluid, brain MRI scans and brains PET amyloid imaging. These are invasive and can be costly. In the context of a growing epidemic, there is a need for less advanced, less invasive diagnostic tests that indicate the risk of Alzheimer's disease in earlier stages, as the disease advances. Treatments are to be included when they are still useful.
This form of dementia results from the aggregation and excessive collection of plaques of beta-amyloid in the brain. Research also indicates these proteins can be built up in the eye, along with the optic nerve from the brain. Researchers also tested 40 patients using a curcumin supplement that attaches to beta-amyloid and is fluorescent, and a new imaging system. The testing process correctly detected each of the patients and ruled out those who do not have dementia. So in addition to brain PET imaging, clinical tests, and MRI imaging, further research shows a regular eye check-up can be the signal needed to find out more about the neural disease.
Proteins also build up in the retina, which is unlike any other eye structure. It has a crucial role to play in sharing features of the brain because it is part of the central nervous system. Plaque staining using curcumin ensures it is detected in the retina much before it accumulates in the brain. The device developed enables a look at the eyes to diagnose and see changes.
In another approach involving the eyes, the researchers used a laser type scanner to detect the abnormal beta-amyloid accumulation in the eye's lens. This found that in people with probable Alzheimer's disease and age-matched healthy volunteers showed differences in the retinal aggregation of beta-amyloid in the correct proportion. Additionally, the test accurately detected 85% of Alzheimer patients and ruled out 95 percent of healthy individuals.
Eye Tests For Dementia
The outer retina's thinning can also be an indicator of an uncommon dementia type that impacts the brain's frontal and side areas called frontotemporal dementia. Unlike other forms of dementia, this does not cause memory problems initially. Additionally, it develops slowly and worsens over the years gradually. Affecting around 16,300 people in the US working out to roughly 2 percent of the total dementia cases, this form is associated with behavioral and personality changes and issues with memory, mental capabilities, and language. Sufferers can also suffer problems like stiffness in movement, lack of bladder and/or bowel control, muscular weakness and a problem swallowing.
Currently, diagnosis of these forms of dementia is only associated with symptomatology and mental abilities, blood tests, brain scans, and spinal fluid. Now, U-Penn researchers have found that this form of dementia can be tested by checking the degree of thinning of the outer part of the retina, which is the layer with the photoreceptors. A part of the same CNS network as the brain, the retina is also impacted by neurodegeneration. Studies indicate that those with dementia like Alzheimer's FTD and motor neuron disease may also have a retinal abnormality.
Studies have found support for thinning of outer retina especially the ellipsoid zone and the outer nuclear layer. These were 10 percent thinner in patients with FTD dementia as compared to the general population. As people's tests on cognition had lower scores, the chances of retinal abnormality observed increased. Loss of optic fiber and the inner retina thinning has even been found to be associated with dementia such as Alzheimer's, and Lewy body dementia. It has also been suggested that dementia patients will have photoreceptor abnormalities along with brain damage.
Dental Checkups For Dementia Patients
There are also benefits to keeping the pearly whites shiny and clean. Research from the University of California found everyday brushing is associated with less risk of developing dementia later. Additionally, the Geriatric Society of America's journal research has found that in 5468 persons averaging 81 years in age, in a retirement settlement around 18 years up to 2010, the female participants who did not brush daily had a 65 percent greater chance of developing dementia while men had a 22 percent greater chance of developing the disease if they did not brush regularly.
Apart from helping others to maintain natural, functional and healthy teeth, therefore, dental checkups are associated with fewer chances of dementia when you get older. Additionally, a 2007 study in the American Dental Association journal showed a direct link between dementia and tooth loss. People with less tooth loss were also less likely to be prone to cognitive impairments like dementia. Daily brushing has a lot of benefits besides just keeping your smile healthy.
Another study from the British University of Central Lancashire found that those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's up to 40 percent possessed a bacterium called porphyromonas gingivitis which is generally in the oral cavities in their brain. Researchers opine that bacterial agents may enter the bloodstream from oral cavities that were diseased and untreated over a period of time.
Porphyromonas gingivalis is found in every human mouth. But this bacterium can undergo excessive growth when teeth are not cleaned and oral hygiene is missing. This can even cause serious gum diseases apart from Alzheimer's.
Poor dental health and gum ailments are directly linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Past studies indicate a link between dementia and poor oral health. But now studies are even showing how porphyromonas gingivalis is directly linked to brain changes causing Alzheimer's and symptoms like falling memory or confusion.
Daily activities like eating and not brushing could cause the bacteria to enter the brain. Visits to your dentist could pave the way for good brain health as well. Future research is also set to explore if poor dental hygiene can initiate dementia in healthy individuals.P. gingivalis infection could signal later stage Alzheimer's.
Set to reach 16 million affected persons by 2050, Alzheimer's is the most pressing medical emergency for the elderly in the US and across the world. Early detection can make the difference to treatment, for dementia that goes undetected goes untreated.
Can Dementia Be Warded Off?
The 2-2-2 Rule
This is one of the most important rules for good oral hygiene. You need to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes for every session. Dentists should be visited a minimum of twice a year. Here's how you can brush for optimal results. To start with, use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Place it at a 45-degree angle and brush it in a circular motion using fluoride toothpaste. This interrupts plaque growth and prevents it from becoming tartar. Regular dental visits can help to detect issues like gum disease or oral cancer right in the beginning. The dentist can also remove scaling or tartar and extrinsic stains or polishing.
Floss At Least Once In 24 Hours
Teeth brushing removes the plaque which is deposited on the surface of the tooth. But flossing remains the only means of cleaning the gaps between the teeth. There are, of course, more reasons to floss than just good oral hygiene. It wards off plaque formation and dementia as well.
Gargle for a Minimum of 30-35 Seconds
Mouthwashes are an excellent way to destroy bacteria, reduce gingivitis or prevent plaque. You can give tooth decay and gum disease a real miss, using gargling for around 30-35 seconds as a preventative measure.
Avoid Foods High in Sugar or Sticky
Sticky items like caramel, dried raisins, and energy bars cling to the teeth and take longer to be washed away by saliva or water. Excessive exposure of teeth to sugar-rich foods also raises the chances of developing teeth decay. Brush your teeth after consuming such goods or rinse your mouth with water to ensure no remnants are stuck. Many medical diseases and not just dementia are related to poor oral health and dental habits. So, take care of your pearly whites and your eyesight, if you want to ward off Alzheimer's.