Eyes may hold clues to stroke risk

September 10, 2013

Retinal imaging may someday help assess a person’s likelihood to develop a stroke, according to a recent study.

 

Dallas-Retinal imaging may someday help assess a person’s likelihood to develop a stroke, according to a study reported in the article “Hypertensive retinopathy and risk of stroke” in the October issue of Hypertension, journal of the American Heart Association. 

Researchers, led by Mohammad Kamran Ikram, MD, PhD, tracked stroke occurrence for an average 13 years in 2,907 patients with high blood pressure who had not previously experienced a stroke. At baseline, each patient had photographs taken of the retina. Hypertensive retinopathy was scored as none, mild, or moderate/severe.

During the follow-up, 146 participants experienced a stroke caused by a blood clot and 15 by bleeding in the brain.

Researchers adjusted for several stroke risk factors such as age, sex, race, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, body mass index, smoking, and blood pressure readings. They found the risk of stroke was 35% higher in patients with mild hypertensive retinopathy, and 137% higher in participants with moderate or severe hypertensive retinopathy.

Even in patients on medication and achieving good blood pressure control, the risk of a blood clot was 96% higher in those with mild hypertensive retinopathy and 198% higher in those with moderate or severe hypertensive retinopathy.