Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore suggest that retina changes in the eye could help detect individuals who are at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that is characterized by narrowing of the large blood vessels in the legs.
Researcher Chao Yang led a study that investigated 9,400 adults over a period of 19 years. During that time, over 300 participants developed PAD and required hospitalization or a procedure to open the arteries of the legs. Ninety-two of the patients developed a severe form of PAD called limb ischemia, which can cause ulcers on the leg and lead to gangrene or amputation.
Interestingly, the research team discovered that individuals who had abnormalities in the small vessels of the retina had double the odds of developing PAD and almost 3.5 times the odds of developing limb ischemia. The association between retinal damage and PAD was strongest among individuals with diabetes.
Currently, PAD affects about 8.5 million Americans above the age of 40 and can be life-threatening. Physicians agree that even though PAD is a nationwide problem, PAD screening is inadequate. The Johns Hopkins study is encouraging because it suggests that other avenues are available to help diagnose PAD in earlier, more treatable stages (Source: US News).
If it has been several years since your last comprehensive eye exam, make an appointment with your eye care professional as soon as possible. You may gain important insight about your health as well as essential information about your vision.