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The surprising eye test which reveals heart disease

The surprising eye test which reveals heart disease

Sunday 02 January 2022

Heart disease is one of the most common threats affecting us today, and its high prevalence is sadly matched by its severity, with the World Health Organisation regarding cardiovascular diseases as the world’s leading cause of death. Any defence against this notorious enemy is vital, and a study from March 2021 published by The Lancet medical journal has revealed an unexpected ally in this battle.

A new “biomarker to detect the existence of occult cardiovascular disease” may have been discovered. Subtle markings on the eye left behind after an eye stroke, may be evidence that the circulatory system is being placed under greater stress than it should be. More formally known as retinal ischemic perivascular lesions (RIPLs), these subtle markings are the key to the study.

An eye stroke can occur when the eye is starved of oxygen and blood, due to a lack of blood flow. This can lead to groups of cells dying inside the eye, which are visible through an OCT scan (optical coherence tomography). While this retinal imaging is normally used to analyse the macula and optic nerve, the ability to see inside blood vessels, without surgery, is invaluable to analysing the circulatory system. A notorious problem with the diagnosis of heart-related issues, is that the anxiety of visiting the doctor can be so great that your symptoms worsen. This might invalidate certain metrics used to measure your health, or could even lead to harsher medications being used when they are not required.

The advantage of this scan is that it is a non-invasive examination of the retina, allowing patients to get speedy results with minimal stress and risk, while also giving doctors important information about the health of your blood vessels. OCT scans can be incorporated into eye tests at the request of a patient or optometrist with relative ease, meaning these risk factors can be made readily available following further research.

This is a positive discovery both for the ocular sciences and wider medical study, and the results of these findings could become a key asset in detecting heart disease in the future.

While this will require a lot of further research to implement more widely, it is undeniably fascinating that the interconnection of the human body can allow us to detect internal issues, without painful and risky invasive surgeries.


  1. AAO.
  2. The Lancet.
  3. Shiley Eye.
  4. AOO Org.


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