A simple type of eye test may be able to save thousands of lives, after it was suggested that the procedure could help to prevent people suffering a stroke.
According to researchers at the University of Zurich, a test known as ocular pulse amplitude (OPA) can reliably detect carotid artery stenosis (CAS), a condition that clogs or blocks the arteries that feed the front part of the brain.
It is recognised as a risk factor for stroke and can severely impact people's lives, but experts say the OPA test could be performed by eyecare experts during routine exams and therefore catch it early.
The study, published in the June issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, suggested that people who had the lowest OPA scores also had the most seriously blocked arteries.
Figures show that people with severe CAS are far more likely to suffer a stroke, and therefore healthcare experts would like to catch and treat it sooner, but because CAS has no symptoms and an efficient test is not currently available, the disease often goes undetected – until now.
The team used a device called the dynamic contour tonometer to check the OPA of 67 patients who were assumed to have CAS and, after using ultrasound exams to corroborate that each study participant had CAS and to detail the severity of his or her blockage, found that patients with the lowest OPA scores also had the most seriously blocked arteries.
Lead researcher Dr Pascal Bruno Knecht said the results show that OPA is a reliable, safe screening test for CAS and further developments can be hugely beneficial.
"We recommend further study to confirm the value of using OPA to detect and assess the severity of CAS and to define its use in stroke prevention," the expert concluded.