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Eye Scan Helps Track Multiple Sclerosis Damage

Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease that damages the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The damage essentially prohibits muscle movement, also creating problems with vision and balance. A new study published in the highly acclaimed medical journal Neurology may show a new development in tracking the stages of MS and the effect of therapies on the disease. The new testing procedure is one many people most likely would not think of. A simple eye scan of the retina can tell much more than an individual’s eye health. The Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan is one used for measuring the thickness of the retina, which lies in the back of the eyeball. In the preliminary trial, 164 Multiple Sclerosis patients were scanned. Those with thinning of the retina also showed more active symptoms of MS. The study followed these patients for a 2-year period. Multiple Sclerosis can be a challenging disease to track and manage. There are actually two different types of MS; one is a relapsing remitting version and the other is the primary degenerative version that most think of. With the relapsing remitting type, patients may experience bouts with weakened muscle function, blurry vision, or other symptoms that come and go. These symptoms can appear for days, weeks, or months, eventually occurring more often until they become permanent. The researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, where the study was developed, found that patients with the relapse type of Multiple Sclerosis showed a faster thinning of their retinas. Additionally, those with thinning retinas also showed worsening disabilities. In conjunction with the OCT testing, brain scans were also run and found the same patients who had thinning retinas also had visible brain lesions. The study’s conductors all agree that the OCT test is a great stepping point to finding a correlation that could allow them to track MS progression much earlier on. However, they also state that these findings will have to go through further, intensive testing before they can be used in mainstream practice. Remaining optimistic, the study’s author says that this type of test will not only be able to track stages of Multiple Sclerosis, but it will also be able to help track the benefit of therapies applied to the disease. Several experts agree stating the study “holds promise.”   Sources: BBC News Health - National Monitor - Counsel & Heal - Therapy -
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