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Tracking Retinal Thinning in MS Patients

April 5, 2016

New research suggests that OCT testing of retinal thickness should be a part of the yearly monitoring of multiple sclerosis patients. The study, published in Lancet Neurology, concludes that the thinning of the parapapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) can predict the progression of the disease.

The cohort study was conducted in Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the US. A total of 879 patients, who had several types of MS but not optic neuritis, were recruited then tracked for an average of two years.

The symptoms of 252 patients had worsened during the study, and patients with thinner pRNFL were more likely to see their disease progress, according to research co-author, Dr. Pablo Villoslada. The 43-person research team concluded that monitoring pRNFL thickness using OCT was a useful predictor that a patient’s disease would worsen.

Dr. Villoslada, of the Spanish August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute, said that neurologists tracking MS patients should request yearly OCT tests from an optometrist. Previous research has shown thinning retinas are associated with multiple sclerosis and other neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Dr. Villoslada’s team is currently assessing whether OCT monitoring of pRNFL could predict the progression of such conditions as well as MS.