Could an Eye Exam be used to Determine Effectiveness of Multiple Sclerosis Treatment?

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For over 2 million people worldwide diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, finding a treatment that controls the disease can be both costly and time-consuming where time is of the essence.  With MS, trial and error with a drug could mean the difference in permanent debilitation.  Luckily, more and more promising drugs are hitting the market.  Newly launched Tecfidera is one of the most promising oral medications (and for those with MS, an oral treatment is a brave new world because traditional medications have required daily injections!), but comes with a hefty price tag around $54,000 for a year of treatment.  Like all medications, you won't know if it works for you with the same effectivity seen in trial data.  New research from Johns Hopkins suggests that your eye doctor may be able to work in conjunction with your primary care provider to track if your MS medication is working effectively for you!

OCT imaging showing the thickness of individual retinal layers
Ocular tissue is neural tissue, just like the tissue that makes up the brain.  As such, changes seen in the retinal tissue appear to reflect changes going on in the brain tissue with people diagnosed with MS.  Over a period of 21 months, Johns Hopkins researchers monitored the OCT (Ocular Coherence Tomography) scans of 164 patients with MS.   An OCT is a advanced scanning device that measures the thickness of retinal and optic nerve tissue, and compares the eye to a normative data base.  To date, the technology is routinely used to track changes associated with glaucoma and macular degeneration.  Researchers found that retinal thinning greatly increased in patients with new T2 lesions and in patients who had worsening levels of disability over the course of the study.  The data looks promising for testing new neuroprotective agents -- after starting a new medication, doctors could potentially use OCT readings to determine if the medication was effective before debilitating progression of the disease caused functional changes in a patient's daily life.  More research is required before this use of technology is implemented in normal protocol, but in a few years, MS patients may be routinely referred for eye examinations to monitor how well their medication is working!  Just one more way to utilize the amazing window into the brain that our ocular tissue provides.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with MS?  I am partnering with Healthline to promote their video campaign: "You've Got This" where people living with MS can post inspirational video messages that can inspire and encourage others who are recently diagnosed.  Visit the link here to check out the videos or post your own!  Healthline is donating $10 for every video submitted so please take some time to post your story or words of hope for this great cause!

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