Stroke risk can be evaluated by retinal imaging

Your eyes may be a window to your stroke risk. In a study the researchers said retinal imaging may someday help evaluate if you’re more likely to develop a stroke – the nation’s leading cause of disability. The retina purveys information on the status of blood vessels in the brain.

Retinal imaging is a cheap and non-invasive way of examining the blood vessels of the retina. High blood pressure worldwide is the single most important risk factor for stroke. However, it’s still not possible to foretell which high blood pressure patients are most feasible to evolve a stroke.

Researchers traced stroke occurrence for an average 13 years in 2,907 patients with hypertension who had not previously suffered a stroke. At baseline, each had photographs taken of the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eyeball called retina. Harm to the retinal blood vessels accredit to hypertension – called hypertensive retinopathy – apparent on the photographs was scored as none, moderate or mild.

During the follow-up, 146 participants suffered a stroke induced by a blood clot and 15 by bleeding in the brain. Researchers regulated for several stroke risk factors such as sex, age, race, cholesterol levels, body mass index, blood sugar, smoking and blood pressure readings. They found the danger of stroke was 35 percent higher in those with mild hypertensive retinopathy and 137 percent higher in those with mild or severe hypertensive retinopathy.

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

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