Researchers have found that a five-minute eye exam called optical coherence tomography (OCT) that measures optic nerve damage may aide in spotting multple sclerosis (MS) early, as well as help track the progression of the disease.
While the definitive cause of MS is not known, most scientists believe that MS is an auto-immune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system.
Currently, MS is diagnosed by patient history, clinical exams, and laboratory tests. The National MS Society says the preferred test, which detects plaques or scarring that may be caused by MS, is magnetic resonance imaging or an MRI.
In the OCT study, 40 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients underwent OCT scans. The results suggested an association between the retinal measurement and brain atrophy.
According to Johns Hopkins neurologist Peter Calabresi, M.D., an MRI "measures the result of many types of tissue loss rather than specifically nerve damage itself. With OCT we can see exactly how healthy these nerves are, potentially in advance of other symptoms."
OCT scans are also much faster and less expensive than MRI scans.
Dr. Calabresi adds that many of the MS symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, visual impairment, fatigue, weakness and bladder function disturbance, are the result of nerve cell degeneration, so a test that specifically measures nerve cell health is potentially the clearest picture of the status of the disease, though optic nerve damage can point to a number of diseases and is not a unique diagnostic tool for MS.
The National MS Society estimates that about 400,000 people have Multiple Sclerosis.
The study was published in the October, 2007 issue of Neurology.
Source: Johns Hopkins University