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Parkinson’s Disease Could Be Detected Early Through An Eye Exam

Parkinson’s Disease Could Be Detected Early Through An Eye ExamEach year nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  This devastating condition is the second most common type of neurodegenerative condition of the brain and nervous system in the world.

Typically an individual with Parkinson’s disease is unaware of their illness until they develop signs or symptoms, secondary to progressive nerve cell loss.  The signs of Parkinson’s are hand tremors, muscle stiffness, memory loss, confusion, uncontrollable twitching or shaking, slowed movement, posture changes, and changes in facial expressions.

University College of London Study
Recently, at the University College of London, a study was conducted which showed promising results in the early detection of Parkinson’s disease.  The researchers at the University injected rats with a toxin known as rotenone, which induces Parkinson’s disease.  After 20 days, experts examined the rats’ eyes, and found evidence of cell death and inflammation within the retinal tissue.  After 60 days the rats also showed signs of neurodegenerative changes in certain parts of the brain responsible for movement and motor skills. These changes in the retina and brain were found to be consistent with changes seen in patients affected by Parkinson’s disease.  These results suggest that retinal changes in Parkinson’s disease may precede neurological symptoms.

After confirming the retinal cell changes and inflammation, the researchers treated the rats with rosiglitazone, a diabetic medication. Interestingly, this drug showed promising results in decreasing retinal cell death. Researchers are now studying rosiglitazone as a potential early treatment for Parkinson’s disease.  Current common treatments available for Parkinson’s disease are only able to mask the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  With this diabetic drug breakthrough, it may soon be possible to decrease the neuronal damage from Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, the team at the University College of London treated the rats with a liposome-encapsulated version of rosiglitazone, known as Avandia. This sustained-release formulation showed even further protective benefits in the brain and retina.

The Retina and the Brain
The retina is a layer of neural tissue in the back of the eye. Its layers of cells are stacked upon one another and communicate with each other via an intricate network of neural connections. The light information collected by the retina is funneled into a nerve, called the optic nerve, which then carries this information from the eye to the brain.

Interestingly, the retina is the only part of the central nervous system that can be visualized and studied directly. This is done via an ophthalmoscope.  The information collected during the examination of the retina can help shed light on irregularities in the nervous system.

If you are experiencing any changes in your eyes; whether it is blurred or distorted vision, pain, impaired vision, or any other eye irregularities, it is important that you see an eye care specialist.

About the Retina Treatment Center
At the Retina Treatment Center, board certified ophthalmologists specialize in providing treatment and surgery of retinal diseases with experience and compassion.  Dr. Shaminder S. Bhullar is passionate about providing his patients the highest quality of care, with the understanding and respect they deserve. He is committed to bringing the best cutting-edge technology and subspecialty care to the Bradenton/Sarasota community.

Originally from Calgary, Canada, Dr. Bhullar received his medical degree at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. He completed his ophthalmology training at the Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and vitreoretinal fellowship at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

For more information, please visit, or call our office at (941) 251-4930.

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