When blindness is a clue to bigger problems

When blindness is a clue to bigger problems

People with a specific form of age-related macular degeneration are also more likely to have underlying heart damage.

According to a new study from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, the damage is caused by “heart failure and heart attacks or advanced heart valve disease or carotid artery disease associated with certain types of stroke.”

This research appears to be the first to identify which types of high-risk cardiovascular and carotid artery disease are associated with eye disorder.


The researchers suggest that their findings could “prompt increased screening for sight-saving, diagnose undetected heart disease, and prevent adverse cardiovascular events.”

What is the specific form of macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the result of damage to the central area of ​​the retina called the macula, is the most common macular disease in Australia. It is responsible for half of all blindness and severe vision loss in this country.

AMD causes progressive loss of central vision. However, peripheral vision remains intact. This loss of central vision affects the ability to read, watch television, and recognize faces.

One of the main forms of early AMD involves small yellow deposits of cholesterol called drusen. These form under a part of the retina called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).

Yellow deposits under the retina are “drusen” and can be a sign of macular degeneration.

Some experts suggest that drusen probably won’t cause AMD, but it can increase a person’s risk of developing AMD and can be a symptom of AMD.

Drusen deprives the retina of blood and oxygen, leading to vision loss, the authors of the new study say.

They note that the formation of drusen can be slowed down by appropriate vitamin supplementation.

Mysterious Deposits

Another major form of early AMD is caused by subretinal drusenoid deposits (SDD). The authors say these are less well-known and require high-tech retinal imaging to detect them.

Yellow arrows point to subretinal drusenoid foci. Image: Mount Sinai

These deposits “contain a different form of cholesterol and form above the retinal pigment epithelium and just below the light-sensitive cells of the retina, where damage and vision loss occur.”

There is no known cure for SDD.

The researchers found that patients with cardiovascular disease or stroke were more likely to have SDD.

Lead author Dr. R. Theodore Smith, MD, professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School, said.

“For the first time, we were able to associate these specific high-risk cardiovascular diseases with a specific form of AMD, that with subretinal drusenoid deposits (SDD).

He said the study is the first strong link “between the leading cause of blindness, AMD, and heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.”

How it happens

He said scientists have “strong evidence of what is really going on”.

Professor Smith said the blood supply to the eye is directly reduced, “either by damage to the heart, which reduces blood supply to the whole body, or by a blocked carotid artery, which directly prevents blood flow to the eye”.

He said poor blood supply can cause damage to any part of the body, and in these specific diseases, “the destroyed retina and residual SDD is the damage.”

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