Effect of aging on retinal artery blood column diameter measured along the vessel axis

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2008 May;49(5):2094-102. doi: 10.1167/iovs.07-0711.


Purpose: To determine whether retinal branch arteries of healthy persons in different age groups show different longitudinal vessel profiles at baseline and during dynamic reaction to flicker stimulation.

Methods: Thirty-three healthy subjects (age groups: 21-27 years, 40-59 years, and 60-85 years) were examined with the use of a retinal vessel analyzer. A monochromatic flicker of 12.5 Hz was applied for 60 seconds. Arterial diameters were measured in vessel segments of 1 mm in length to obtain the longitudinal vessel profile. Differences in amplitude and frequency of arterial width changes were characterized by the parameter spectral edge frequency (SEF).

Results: SEF was significantly different between the young group and the senior group in each phase of the arterial reaction to flicker (baseline, dilation, constriction, relaxation; P < 0.05; Mann-Whitney U test). No significant difference within any age group was found in any phase of the arterial reaction. No significant difference between the middle-aged and either young or elderly subjects was found at baseline. However, after stimulation, the middle-aged group displayed a significant difference compared with the young group, with values resembling those of the elderly group.

Conclusions: In healthy elderly subjects, retinal arteries assumed a significantly less regular longitudinal vessel profile than those of young subjects. Middle-aged subjects assumed a more irregular profile only in the stimulated states of dilation, constriction, and relaxation. Early age-related changes in vessel profile are noted only after metabolic demand. These changes might be a cause for impaired blood flow and blood-vessel wall interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinal Artery / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / radiation effects