A simple eye test could identify heart disease within seconds, saving thousands of patients from invasive and lengthy diagnostic procedures.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh are recruiting more than 1,000 patients with suspected heart disease to take part in a pioneering new study. The study aims to determine whether a scan of blood vessels in the eye can identify signs of heart disease.
A simple eye test could detect the early signs of heart disease
Participants will have high definition images taken of their retinas with specialist equipment on loan from Optos- an eye care company based in Fife. Changes in blood vessel widths or unusually branched blood vessels could be linked to heart disease.
The simple scan could prove a more efficient, cost effective and less invasive alternative to biopsies or angiograms, traditionally used to detect heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when the blood supply to your heart is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack.
The project will be led by the University of Edinburgh’s Clinical Research Imaging Centre (CRIC), in partnership with the University of Dundee, NHS Lothian’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, NHS Tayside’s Ninewells Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.
Dr Tom MacGillivray, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh and manager of the Image Analysis laboratory in CRIC, said: “If we can identify early problems in the blood vessels in the eyes we might potentially pinpoint signs of heart disease.
"This could help identify people who would benefit from early lifestyle changes and preventative therapies.”
Scotland has the highest death rate from the condition in Western Europe- more than 8,000 people die from it each year.
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