By Adrian Galbreth
A new type of eye test could potentially help to save lives, according to experts who claim it can diagnose heart problems.
Specialists at the University of Edinburgh Clinical Research Imaging Centre say the new test takes just 30 seconds but could potentially save millions of lives by detecting the signs of heart disease and saving patients from undergoing lengthy and invasive procedures.
Experts at the facility note that the test is both cheap and easy to use and works by takes high-definition digital images of patients’ retinas to identify the telltale signs of heart disease, which include a narrowing or branching of blood vessels.
Project leader Dr Tom MacGillivray, an imaging expert, told the Daily Express that the eyes provide a "unique window" into the patient’s blood supply and the effect it has on the human system.
"By examining blood vessels closely we are aiming to detect abnormalities, spot signs of heart disease and then act accordingly. It's about prevention rather than cure but could potentially affect millions," he added.
He revealed that the university is collaborating with specialists from Moorfields Eye Hospital, the University of Dundee, NHS Lothian’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and NHS Tayside's Ninewells on the project.
Tests are currently underway on 1,000 patients with suspected heart disease as part of the three-year project, which Dr MacGillivray said is the first of its kind in the world.
He explained that the experts are particularly interested in small changes to blood vessels, which only become clear when complex computer image processes are employed.
"It is hoped this procedure will catch people early on and act as an opportunity for them to change their lifestyle before it’s too late, Dr MacGillivray said.
"We are really excited by this project. We know that problems in the eye are linked to conditions such as diabetes and that abnormalities in the eyes' blood vessels can also indicate vascular problems in the brain."
If scientists can identify early problems in the blood vessels, they could potentially pinpoint signs of heart disease and identify people who would benefit from preventative therapies, the expert noted.
by Emily Tait