AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Eye Changes May Signal Frontotemporal Lobe Degeneration

Penn study suggests that a quick, non-invasive retina test may help diagnose FTD

 

Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that is present in tens of thousands of Americans, but is often difficult to diagnose accurately. Now researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found evidence that a simple eye exam and retinal imaging test may help improve that accuracy.

Using an inexpensive, non-invasive, eye-imaging technique, the Penn Medicine scientists found that patients with FTD showed thinning of the outer retina—the layers with the photoreceptors through which we see—compared to control subjects.

The retina is potentially affected by neurodegenerative disorders because it is a projection of the brain. Prior studies have suggested that patients with Alzheimer’s disease and ALS may also have thinning of the retina—although a different part of the retina. Thus, imaging the retina may help doctors confirm or rule out FTD.

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