Seeing CVD in the Eyes of Diabetics

Heart disease among type 1 diabetic African Americans is associated with narrowed retinal arteries

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) African Americans have a higher risk of heart disease, especially if they have diabetes. Now, researchers have found a new way to predict heart disease in African American patients.

African Americans with type 1 diabetes who have narrower small arteries in the retina may have an increased risk of heart disease.

"Take care of your heart if you have diabetes."

In a recent study, Monique S. Roy, MD, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey Medical School, and colleagues wanted to understand the link between the diameter of blood vessels to and from the eye and heart disease risk in African Americans with type 1 diabetes.

According to the authors, narrowing of the retinal arteries (vessels that carry blood to the eyes) is already linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Their results show that a narrower retinal artery is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death from any cause within six years.

They also found that a larger retinal venule (vessels that carry blood to the veins and away from the eye) is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

"Eye doctors have known for years that narrowed blood vessels in the eye are an important indicator of high blood pressure and ultimately a risk factor for cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Christopher J. Quinn, an optometrist from Omni Eye Associates who was not involved in the study.

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, the American Heart Associated estimates that at least 65 percent of diabetes patients die from some type of heart disease or stroke.

The results of this study may allow doctors to spot patients with a heightened risk of heart disease and death, and convince those patients to take preventive steps, such as exercise and diet changes.

"This study confirms the importance of obtaining routine comprehensive eye exams as part of every patients general health care. In addition to assuring good vision, routine eye care can identity those patients at risk for treatable systemic conditions like diabetes and hypertension," says Dr. Quinn.

This study, which included 468 African Americans with type 1 diabetes, received funding from the National Eye Institute, a Lew Wasserman Merit Award, and a grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.

The results are published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 16, 2012
Last Updated:
July 30, 2012