Optical coherence tomography reveals retinal thinning in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2022 Aug 5. doi: 10.1007/s00406-022-01455-z. Online ahead of print.


Background: Schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs) are presumed to be associated with retinal thinning. However, evidence is lacking as to whether these retinal alterations reflect a disease-specific process or are rather a consequence of comorbid diseases or concomitant microvascular impairment.

Methods: The study included 126 eyes of 65 patients with SSDs and 143 eyes of 72 healthy controls. We examined macula and optic disc measures by optical coherence tomography (OCT) and OCT angiography (OCT-A). Additive mixed models were used to assess the impact of SSDs on retinal thickness and perfusion and to explore the association of retinal and clinical disease-related parameters by controlling for several ocular and systemic covariates (age, sex, spherical equivalent, intraocular pressure, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, smoking status, and OCT signal strength).

Results: OCT revealed significantly lower parafoveal macular, macular ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (GCIPL), and macular retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness and thinner mean and superior peripapillary RNFL in SSDs. In contrast, the applied OCT-A investigations, which included macular and peripapillary perfusion density, macular vessel density, and size of the foveal avascular zone, did not reveal any significant between-group differences. Finally, a longer duration of illness and higher chlorpromazine equivalent doses were associated with lower parafoveal macular and macular RNFL thickness.

Conclusions: This study strengthens the evidence for disease-related retinal thinning in SSDs.

Keywords: Angiography; OCT; Perfusion; Retina; Schizophrenia; Thickness.