"This technique has the potential to provide a powerful and reliable assessment strategy to measure structural changes in the central nervous system, both for diagnostic purposes and in clinical trials to monitor whether potential treatments can prevent deterioration or restore nerve function," said Dr. Elliot Frohman, professor of neurology and ophthalmology, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Center at UT Southwestern and co-senior author of the study, which appears in the June issue of Annals of Neurology.
The technique, called optical coherence tomography (OCT), reliably measures thinning of the retina in people with multiple sclerosis, the researchers found.
"An ophthalmologist might someday be able to use OCT to identify retinal thinning during a routine eye exam and consider MS as a prime diagnosis," Dr. Frohman said. "However, this prospect is a long way off."
The retina, which lines the back of the eye, detects light and sends visual information to the brain via the optic nerve. Retinal thinning can occur as a result of multiple sclerosis, but this study, Dr. Frohman said, is the first to track such thinning over time in a single group of patients. The Neurology study involved 299 patients with MS who were tracked for six months to 4.5 years.
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