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M. Parent, H. Kergoat, J. V. Lovasik, T. Boutin, M.-J. Kergoat, N. Racine; The Retinal Vasculature in the Aging Human Eye. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2010;51(13):5015.
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Retinal diseases of vascular origin are accompanied by structural changes such as vessel narrowing, dilation, and abnormal crossing or occlusion of vessels. However, changes that occur in the healthy aging eye are not well described. Our objective was to document changes in the retinal vasculature at the posterior pole that may happen in the aging healthy human eye.
Cross-sectional data were obtained from 104 subjects between 20 and 80 years of age. Each subject underwent an eye examination, a cardiovascular evaluation and blood testing to ensure that they were in good health. A Zeiss fundus camera was used to obtain high-resolution digitized colored photos of the posterior pole of the test eye. Visualis and VesselMap softwares (Imedos) were used for data analyses. The diameter of paired arteries and veins were measured along a 2.7 mm distance. A count of perifoveal vessels was also made for each subject. Linear regression analyses were used to identify statistically significant parameter trends as a function of age (p=0.05).
Our data showed that retinal arteries and veins tapered from the optic nerve head towards the temporal periphery. Linear regressions indicated that the mean arterial diameter decreased with age (p< 0.01) whereas the mean venous diameter did not change (p> 0.05). The number of perifoveal vessels also did not vary as a function of age (p> 0.05). Parallel blood pressure and IOP measurements indicated that both the systemic blood pressure and ocular perfusion pressure increased with age (p< 0.01).
The progressive reduction in retinal arterial caliber with age may represent a regulatory response to counter the increase in OPP. On the other hand, arterial narrowing may precede impending systemic hypertension. Longitudinal data are required to address this issue. The preservation of perifoveal vessels despite arterial narrowing may help preserve central macular function with age.
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