Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Early Signs of Heart Disease May Appear in the Eyes

Findings from a UC San Diego Health Shiley Eye Institute study suggest that heart disease may be detected during an eye examination of the retina. It found that “people with heart disease tend to have retinas marked by evidence of eye stroke.” The research team “identified a potential new marker that shows cardiovascular disease may be present using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan,” a non-invasive tool used by eye doctors to show images of the retina. Decreased blood flow resulting from heart disease can lead to insufficient blood flow to the eye, potentially causing cells in the retina at the back of the eye to die, leaving a permanent mark or “retinal ischemic perivascular lesions” (RIPLs). This research finding was based on examining retinal lesions to ascertain the possible presence of a cardiovascular disorder. Early detection and treatment can prevent a heart attack or stroke. “’It’s our hope that by identifying RIPLs as a marker for cardiovascular disease providers will be able to identify heart issues before a catastrophic event, such as a heart attack or a stroke, occurs,’” noted lead author Mathier Bakhoum, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist and retina surgeon at UC San Diego Health. To read more about the study, visit webpages from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), stating that Early Signs of Heart Disease Appear in the Eyes – American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the UC San Diego Shiley Eye Institute announcing that Heart Disease is the Eye of the Beholder. The full study was published in an article in The Lancet reporting the Prevalence of subclinical retinal ischemia in patients with cardiovascular disease–a hypothesis driven study.