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A window into Alzheimer's and early detection - how regular eye exams could help

Signs of Alzheimer's Disease could be found in the eyes
Signs of Alzheimer's Disease could be found in the eyes 02:49

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - When was the last time you had an eye exam?

It's an important question because doctors recommend you get on once a year, whether or not you need glasses or not or need a new prescription, they stress the importance of getting your eyes checked. 

Poets have written it for years, that our eyes are the windows to our souls but it turns out, they are a lot more than that. 

A new study indicated that a look in your eyes could be an early detector of Alzheimer's Disease. 

"It's one of the only places where we can actively see your blood vessels, your you know, your optic nerve and so it's one of the only places we can see that without opening you up," said AHN Optometrist Dr. Sarah Zambotti. 

Dr. Zambotti said that a deep look in your eyes can reveal a lot. 

"Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, those things are more common and definitely can be found on routine eye exams," she said. 

Researchers at Loughborough and Cambridge Universities in England discovered that early vision changes could be one of the earliest indicators of Alzheimer's. 

"They are looking more into biomarkers specifically for Alzheimer's to try to catch it early," Dr. Zambotti said. 

The study of almost 9,000 patients found that the early indicators of Alzheimer's, are as much as 12 years before, the onset of symptoms. 

"It's really helpful if the patient can prepare and their family can prepare for potentially what's to come down the road," Dr. Zambotti said. 

She said that is why it's important to have yearly exams, especially over 50, and said prior to that maybe every one to two years unless you've got an already known condition. 

Even things like increasing light sensitivity or those floaters mean you should get your eyes checked out. 

"Whether that be a vascular problem or whether it may be an autoimmune problem, there can be a lot of different reasons why those things are happening," she explained. 

She also does not recommend the, no pun intended, wait-and-see approach. Essentially Dr. Zambotti is saying don't sleep on it and see if it gets better in the morning. 

The research out of England, according to Dr. Zambotti, is important because, with an early suspicion of Alzheimer's to come, there are treatments that can help delay the progression to cognitive issues. 

So while you want to start the yearly exams around 50, it's still important to have regular baseline exams when you are young - in your 20s, 30s, and 40s - so you have a history and any changes can be detected over time. 

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