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Neuro-ophthalmology is a clinical discipline that covers brain disorders affecting the visual system. Since the visual system involves large areas of the brain, pathologies at many locations can be detected by the examination of eye and pupil movements.
Neuro-ophthalmology critically contributes to the diagnosis and therapy of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and brain tumors but also rare disorders hard to diagnose, as for example Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or Niemann Pick Type C disease. The neuro-ophthalmic examination is an essential part of the assessment of brain functions.
Today, roughly 25% of patients with multiple sclerosis and 50% of patients with brain tumors are diagnosed based on neuro-ophthalmic symptoms. This percentage is likely to increase if diagnostics become more reliable.
Today, neuro-ophthalmic examinations are mostly performed manually and physicians need special training, which many lack. Examinations are time-consuming and results are largely qualitative.
All together, this leads to frequent false or late diagnoses and there is great untapped potential for early diagnosis of brain disorders. The consequences are important and sometimes devastating for patients and the health system in general (e.g., due to non-detected brain tumors, delayed start of therapy for multiple sclerosis etc.).
Imaging techniques such as MRI cannot compensate for these shortcomings. They are useful to find structural damage, while the physical examination shows a functional loss.
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