A common type of disease that involves the back of the eye, known as retinopathy, is a risk factor for heart failure, even in the absence of preexisting heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, according to a new report.
Retinopathy is a known marker for blood vessel disease throughout the body, which is thought to play a role in the development of heart failure. Still, it was unclear if retinopathy was a predictor of heart failure.
To investigate, Dr. Tien Y. Wong, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from 11,612 subjects who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a population-based study lasting 7 years.
Photographs of the retina were taken between 1993 and 1995 and evaluated for retinopathy. Heart failure was determined through hospital and death records.
The researchers’ findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The rate of heart failure during follow-up was 5.4 percent, the authors note. The rate of heart failure among subjects with retinopathy was much higher than that seen among subjects without retinopathy, at 15.1 and 4.8 percent, respectively.
After adjusting for various factors that may have influenced the association, retinopathy remained a strong predictor of heart failure, nearly doubling the risk. Moreover, in subjects without preexisting heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, the presence of retinopathy almost tripled the risk of heart failure
The results suggest that it may be worthwhile to screen for heart failure in people with retinopathy, even if they don’t have symptoms of heart trouble, Wong’s team concludes.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, January 5, 2005.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD