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Scientists link thinning of the retina to Parkinson’s disease

A new study raises the possibility of examining the eye to assess a patient’s risk of developing the progressive neurodegenerative condition

Elderly man

Researchers have found an association between the thinning of the layers of the retina and Parkinson’s disease.

The study, which was published in Neurology, found a link between thinning of the retina and the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, which helps to control movement.

The research involved 49 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 54 age-matched controls.

Study participants had high-resolution eye scans taken and those with Parkinson’s were assessed for the density of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Scientists found that the layers of the retina were thinner in those with Parkinson’s disease when compared to healthy controls, particularly in the two inner layers of the retina.

The thinning of the retina was associated with the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and the severity of the disease.

Study author, Jee-Young Lee, said: “These discoveries may mean that neurologists may eventually be able to use a simple eye scan to detect Parkinson's disease in its earliest stages, before problems with movement begin.”