Eyes offer peek into brain health

The health of your eyes could offer an insight into your brain condition, says a new study.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco found that damage to a person's retina was linked to decline in the individual's brain function.

They believe that issues with the blood supply may be damaging both the eye and the brain, the BBC reported. The eye condition the researchers were looking at was called retinopathy, which is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

For their study, published in the journal Neurology, the team followed 511 women, who were 65 or older, for a decade.

About 39 were diagnosed with retinopathy. Those with the eye condition tended to have lower scores in tests of brain function, including memory and abstract reasoning exams.

Brain scans also showed up more areas of damaged brain tissue , ischemic lesions, in those with retinopathy.

Mary Haan, who led the study, said, "Problems with the tiny blood vessels in the eye may be a sign that there are problems with the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to cognitive problems. This could be very useful if simple eye screening could give us an indication that people might be at risk of problems with their brain health and functioning."

However, much larger studies would be needed to see if the findings could be used as a clinical test for declining brain function.

While there was no suggestion of dementia in the patients, brain decline can be an early sign of the disease, the researchers said. Simon Ridley, at Alzheimer's Research UK, said, "This small study offers clues for a possible route when monitoring for the signs of cognitive decline."

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