A quick, inexpensive eye scan can accurately assess the brain damage in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and indicate how quickly the disease is progressing, according to results of two new Johns Hopkins University studies.
"The eye is the window into the brain and by measuring how healthy the eye is, we can determine how healthy the rest of the brain is," said lead researcher Dr. Peter A. Calabresi, a professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"Eye scans are not that expensive, are really safe, and are widely used in ophthalmology, and now that we have evidence of their predictive value in MS, we think they are ready for prime time. We should be using this new quantitative tool to learn more about disease progression, including nerve damage and brain atrophy."SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
For the new studies, detailed in the journals Lancet Neurology and the Archives of Neurology, Calabresi and his colleagues used so-called OCT (optical coherence tomography) to scan nerves deep in the back of the eyes of 164 MS patients. They then used special software to assess previously immeasurable thickness or swelling of retinal tissues. They also used brain MRI scans to measure inflammation spots directly — to determine brain damage and the disease’s progression — and performed tests to determine disability levels.
The results showed the more inflammation and swelling the researchers found in the retinas of the MS patients, the more inflammation showed up in their brain MRIs. The ability to gain such information through a simple, five-minute eye scan could allow physicians to tell how far the disease has progressed, and to better advise patients about their care, without needing an MRI.
In a second study, Calabresi and colleagues looked at eye and brain scans of 84 MS patients to identify other abnormalities in deeper retinal layers that have been associated with atrophy in the gray matter of the brain, indicating more nerve damage from MS. The technique could help improve doctors’ understanding of the progression of MS in their patients.
About 400,000 Americans are living with MS. The disorder typically strikes between the ages of 20 and 50 and affects up to three times as many women as men.
Both studies were funded, in part, by grants from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Eye Institute.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.