Can an eye test help diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS)?

A simple eye test may one day help diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) in its earliest stages and enable researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments, according to a study by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The test, optical coherence tomography (OCT), measures thinning of the retina in people with MS.

In the study, OCT was used to track retinal thinning in 299 people with MS between six months and four-and-a-half years. They found significant retinal thinning and a corresponding decrease in visual sharpness during the monitoring. OCT is reliable, easy to use, painless and sensitive to retinal changes over time, the researchers concluded.

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, the researchers said, but that day is likely to be in the distant future.

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