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Eye Scan May Help Spot MS Damage

Finding May Mean Earlier Treatment for Mutliple Sclerosis
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2007 -- A quick eye scan may help doctors check for nerve damage in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

That news might mean swifter treatment for MS, note MS experts including Peter Calabresi, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

"Treatments for MS cannot reverse the damage but they can arrest it, so the earlier we get someone on medication the quicker we can stop the disease from causing more harm," Calabresi says in a news release.

The eye scan uses optical coherence tomography (OCT), a painless technique that costs less than brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

OCT shows the thickness of retinal nerve fibers. Thinning retinal nerve fibers may show MS nerve damage, according to Calabresi and colleagues.

They studied 40 multiple sclerosis patients and 15 people without multiple sclerosis. Participants got OCT eye scans and MRI brain scans.

Among the MS patients, thinner retinal nerve fibers were linked with brain tissue loss. But that wasn't true in participants without multiple sclerosis.

The study was small, but the results were "strong and encouraging," write Calabresi and colleagues, who write that OCT is a "relatively new" technique.

They call for larger, longer studies to track OCT and MS over time.

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