Alzheimer's disease: A review of its visual system neuropathology. Optical coherence tomography-a potential role as a study tool in vivo

J P Cunha, N Moura-Coelho, R P Proenca, Arnaldo Dias-Santos, J Ferreira, C Louro, A Castanheira-Dinis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a prevalent, long-term progressive degenerative disorder with great social impact. It is currently thought that, in addition to neurodegeneration, vascular changes also play a role in the pathophysiology of the disease. Visual symptoms are frequent and are an early clinical manifestation; a number of psychophysiologic changes occur in visual function, including visual field defects, abnormal contrast sensitivity, abnormalities in color vision, depth perception deficits, and motion detection abnormalities. These visual changes were initially believed to be solely due to neurodegeneration in the posterior visual pathway. However, evidence from pathology studies in both animal models of AD and humans has demonstrated that neurodegeneration also takes place in the anterior visual pathway, with involvement of the retinal ganglion cells' (RGCs) dendrites, somata, and axons in the optic nerve. These studies additionally showed that patients with AD have changes in retinal and choroidal microvasculature. Pathology findings have been corroborated in in-vivo assessment of the retina and optic nerve head (ONH), as well as the retinal and choroidal vasculature. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) in particular has shown great utility in the assessment of these changes, and it may become a useful tool for early detection and monitoring disease progression in AD. The authors make a review of the current understanding of retinal and choroidal pathological changes in patients with AD, with particular focus on in-vivo evidence of retinal and choroidal neurodegenerative and microvascular changes using OCT technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2079-2092
Number of pages14
JournalGraefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology
Issue number11
Early online date4 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
  • Retina
  • Choroid


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