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Suggestions emerge that OCT scans may be able to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis

Suggestions emerge that OCT scans may be able to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis

Thursday 01 September 2022


OCT scans are once again proving to diagnose more than just eye conditions, as researchers from Vienna university suggest that retinal thinning may be a significant indicator for the development of multiple sclerosis.

Optical Coherence Tomography scans are fundamental in diagnosing chronic eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. It is able to do this by taking hundreds of photos of the back of the eye using an infrared-camera, and layering those images together to build a picture of the retina which makes the incredibly complex, densely packed and difficult-to-reach region far easier to comprehend. These photos are taken of layers which are only micrometres thick - that’s one thousandth of a millimetre!

As we mentioned earlier this year, OCT scans have already revealed similar biomarkers which demonstrate the risk of heart disease (seriousreaders.com), by analysing marks left behind after eye-strokes. But now researchers are close to demonstrating the risk for a more elusive disease, that being MS.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder and neurological condition which affects the brain and spinal cord. It impacts our ability to move voluntarily, with the body unable to send signals from the brain to other parts of the body as effectively. This often gets worse over time and can lead to severe disability.

As there is currently no cure, we can only focus on slowing the progression. This can be made much more effective through early detection, but because the symptoms develop slowly and there are limited indicators, patients will often miss valuable treatment time before the disease is discovered.

This is the issue that OCT scans may begin to start helping with.

What can OCT scans diagnose?

Thinning of the retinal layer between MS relapses has shown to predict the future likelihood of disability. By offering this analysis early, patients could start the slowing treatment long in advance of their oncoming degeneration, hopefully offering a significant improvement in their quality of life.

The retina as a window to the brain

The eye is a unique organ because we can use it to analyse inside the body without invasive procedures. Biomarkers may not always be the priority for doctors, but for the most severe conditions, every moment counts.

We hope that OCT scans, which are available for as little as £10 nowadays, may continue to provide these valuable insights. With any luck, more of these important discoveries will be made.

Sources:

  1. Ophthalmologytimes.

Retinal Layer Thinning After Optic Neuritis is Associated With Future Relapse Remission in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis Gabriel Bsteh, Nik Krajnc, Katharina Riedl, Patrick Altmann, Barbara Kornek, Fritz Leutmezer, Stefan Macher, Christoph Mitsch, Philip Pruckner, Paulus Stefan Rommer, Gudrun Zulehner, Berthold Pemp, Thomas Berger, on behalf of Vienna Multiple Sclerosis Database Study Group Neurology Aug 2022, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200970; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200970

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