A new study from the Johns Hopkins MS Center may have discovered a new way to evaluate MS progression: an eye test. Published in the journal Neurology, the researchers discovered that retina thinning may reveal how rapidly the disease is progressing.
Previously, there really was no easy way to evaluate disease progression. Based on the study, MRI scans could be used to identify new or growing lesions, though the process can be expensive and time-consuming.
How was the study done?
The researchers studied 164 participants, evaluated every six months for thinning of the retina. Of those tested, 59 had no MS disease activity. The team found that those who suffered from MS relapses saw a 42 percent faster thinning of the retina than those who did not experience any relapses.
The study also found that those who had increasing disability over the life of the study had 37 percent more thinning, and that those who had had MS for less than five years had 43 percent less thinning of the retina than those who had the disease for longer.
What’s the impact?
If this retina thinning theory proves to be accurate and can ultimately be implemented into the larger MS community, it could bring incredible benefits to patients. This test could provide an easy means of measuring the progression of the disease, as the eye scan can be performed in-office. Is your medication working, or is MS still progressing? Now doctors seem to have found a way to conduct such an evaluation.
These findings could also provide insights for new treatments for the condition, especially those that are thought to slow the progression of the disease. Relapses can be evaluated, but without taking regular MRIs, it was difficult to track how much the disease was actually progressing or whether a new treatment was truly effective. It could provide an opportunity for drugs to be fast-tracked with proven success, and MS as a condition could be further investigated.
The study also mentioned that previous research indicated that high vitamin D intake can improve eyesight, and other research has shown vitamin D deficiency could be tied to MS. The links between eyesight and MS continue, as optic neuritis is a common symptom of MS and the "swinging flashlight test" is used to identify the Marcus Gunn Sign. This test could prove insightful to researching the relationship further.
Though this discovery may not seem like a big deal, incremental steps towards better evaluation, diagnosis, treatment or prevention will open the pathway towards greater understanding and, with luck, a cure for this disease.
n.p. (2012, December 26). "Eyes May Reveal Multiple Sclerosis Progression." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/254469.php.