Quickest way to the heart? Through the eye

Researchers from the Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health in the US have shown it may be possible to detect heart disease using retinal optical coherence tomography (OCT).


According to their paper, published in The Lancet, researchers examined retinal lesions indicating ischaemia to determine if a cardiovascular disorder may be present. “The eyes are a window into our health and many diseases can manifest in the eye; cardiovascular disease is no exception,” said lead author and retinal surgeon Dr Mathieu Bakhoum. “Ischaemia can lead to inadequate blood flow to the eye and may cause cells in the retina to die, leaving behind a permanent mark.”


After reviewing the records of individuals who had received an OCT scan at UC San Diego Health, the research team found that, on average, individuals with heart disease had more than triple the number of what they termed ‘retinal ischaemic perivascular lesions’ (RIPLs) compared with controls. Dr Bakhoum said he hopes eyecare providers will be able to use RIPLs to help identify issues before an event such as a heart attack or a stroke occurs.


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