Background: The retinal microcirculation can be viewed non-invasively to give a unique perspective of the cerebral microcirculation in vivo. Studying pathological changes of retinal blood vessels (microaneurysms, retinal haemorrhages, and retinal arteriolar narrowing) may help to understand the causes of various cerebrovascular disorders. Retinal photography provides such an opportunity.
Recent developments: Several recent studies have shown that retinal microvascular changes are reliably documented by retinal photographs. These retinopathy changes seem to be fairly common in the general population, even in people without hypertension or diabetes. Retinopathy is related to incident clinical stroke and stroke mortality and to MRI-defined subclinical cerebral white-matter lesions and cerebral atrophy, independent of blood pressure, diabetes, and other cerebrovascular risk factors. WHERE NEXT?: Retinal microvascular abnormalities seem to be markers of concomitant cerebral microangiopathy, and retinal photography may be useful for the investigation of microvascular disorders of the brain in clinical and epidemiological settings. Future research should be aimed at the development of standardised photographic methods for the assessment of retinal microvascular changes, the replication of these findings in other populations and in people with other cerebrovascular disorders, and the examination of the increased accuracy of stoke-risk stratification given by retinal photography