Opticians could help spot the warning signs of heart disease


Heart disease could be detected through a person’s eyes and detected during a trip to the optician, according to a study.

Researchers have identified a way to detect cardiovascular disease in a patient using a scanner that examines the most sensitive parts of the eye.

Non-invasive optical coherence tomography (OCT) is commonly used by opticians and in ophthalmology clinics to create images of the retina, allowing experts to visualize the health of your eyes in more detail.

The researchers looked for abnormalities in the retina – the innermost light-sensitive layer of the eye – to determine if heart problems may have been present.

Estimates suggest that around 7.6 million people are living with heart or circulatory disease in the UK.

Dr Mathieu Bakhoum, retinal surgeon at UC San Diego Health’s Shiley Eye Institute and lead author of the study, said: “The eyes are a window to our health and many diseases can manifest in the eyes. . Cardiovascular disease is no exception.

“Ischemia, which is a decrease in blood flow caused by heart disease, can cause insufficient blood flow to the eye and can cause retinal cells to die, leaving a permanent mark.

“We called this brand” perivascular ischemic retinal injury, “or” RIPL, “and sought to determine if this finding could serve as a biomarker for cardiovascular disease.”

“Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death”

As part of the study, Dr. Bakhoum and his team reviewed the charts of patients who had a retinal OCT scan at UC San Diego Health from July 2014 to July 2019.

Two groups were then identified, one made up of 84 people with heart disease and the other of 76 healthy people who served as a control group for the study.

In the experiment, a higher number of markers or “RIPL” were observed in the eyes of individuals with heart disease.

The finding indicates that the higher the number of RIPLs in the eye, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.

Study co-author Dr Anthony DeMaria said, “The only way to view the smallest blood vessels in the body is in the eye.

“The retina, in particular, provides important evidence for the adverse effects of cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure.

“I hope that the presence of RIPL in the eye will serve as a marker for cardiovascular disease when patients are assessed for risk factors for heart disease or when patients are assessed for the suspected presence of heart disease.”

Dr DeMaria said early detection of RIPL could lead to the identification of heart disease, which would allow for early treatment and potentially reduce the number of heart attacks or strokes.

UC San Diego Health ophthalmologists are now considering referring patients to a cardiologist if RIPLs are identified during an OCT eye scan.

The research team hopes that future studies will allow RIPL to become a common ophthalmologic marker that clinicians use to identify potential heart disease.

Dr Bakhoum concluded: “Globally, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and, unfortunately, many people are unaware that they can have heart problems.

“The key to preventing this is early detection and treatment. We hope that by identifying RIPLs as markers of cardiovascular disease, providers will be able to identify heart problems before a catastrophic event, such as a heart attack or stroke, occurs.

The report was published in the journal EClinicalMedicine by The Lancet.


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