April 23, 2014
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Study: Eye images set sights on stroke risk

Your eyes may offer a view to a future stroke, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

Australian researchers found that retinal diseases may be linked to an increased risk of a stroke following an examination of blood vessels in people's eyes. The risk was identified even after taking into consideration the common precursors to a stroke, such as smoking and high blood pressure.

"Retinopathy (small blood vessel damage in the eyes) was significantly associated with combined stroke events (such as stroke, transient ischemia attacks and death due to stroke)," writes Dr. Paul Mitchell, lead author of the study. "This association was stronger in those without severe hypertension."

The investigators took retinal photographs of more than 3,600 study participants, all of whom were 49 years or older. None of these participants had diabetes, which can cause eye damage. They tracked the participants for seven years, focusing on types of eye damage, such as hemorrhages and bulges in blood vessels, as well as the incidences of stroke.

Results showed that combined stroke events were 70% more likely for participants who had signs of retinopathy. Furthermore, patients with blood vessel changes who did not have severe blood pressure - a risk factor for stroke - were 2.7 times more likely to experience a stroke.

"The blood vessels in the eyes share similar anatomical characteristics and other characteristics with the blood vessels in the brain," said Mitchell, in a news release. "More research needs to be done to confirm these results, but it's exciting to think that this fairly simple procedure could help us predict whether someone will be more likely to have a stroke several years later."


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