Visual and Ocular Manifestations of Alzheimer's Disease and Their Use as Biomarkers for Diagnosis and Progression

Front Neurol. 2016 Apr 19:7:55. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2016.00055. eCollection 2016.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia affecting the growing aging population today, with prevalence expected to rise over the next 35 years. Clinically, patients exhibit a progressive decline in cognition, memory, and social functioning due to deposition of amyloid β (Aβ) protein and intracellular hyperphosphorylated tau protein. These pathological hallmarks of AD are measured either through neuroimaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, or diagnosed post-mortem. Importantly, neuropathological progression occurs in the eye as well as the brain, and multiple visual changes have been noted in both human and animal models of AD. The eye offers itself as a transparent medium to cerebral pathology and has thus potentiated the development of ocular biomarkers for AD. The use of non-invasive screening, such as retinal imaging and visual testing, may enable earlier diagnosis in the clinical setting, minimizing invasive and expensive investigations. It also potentially improves disease management and quality of life for AD patients, as an earlier diagnosis allows initiation of medication and treatment. In this review, we explore the evidence surrounding ocular changes in AD and consider the biomarkers currently in development for early diagnosis.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; animal models of neurodegenerative disease; biomarkers; neurodegereration; visual changes.

Publication types

  • Review