Pregnancy is an extraordinary time of growth, for both the mother and the baby. But all those changes also introduce opportunities for complications. In 5% to 8% of pregnancies, that includes preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure and a slew of other signs and symptoms.1

Clinicians believe the condition is perpetuated by abnormal blood vessel growth that begins in the placenta. The vessels are often more narrow, limiting blood flow. If left untreated, the resultant high blood pressure can lead to damage throughout the body, often in the liver and kidneys—and the eye, according to a new study out of Turkey.1,2 New data suggests patients diagnosed with preeclampsia have changes in their retinal microvascular structure that are undetectable with biomicroscopy.2

The team used OCT angiography (OCT-A) to observe the vascular density in the eyes of 98 pregnant patients (55 with preeclampsia and 43 without) and 38 healthy controls who were not pregnant.  They found patients with preeclampsia had lower superficial and deep foveal densities compared with non-pregnant controls; these subjects also had lower deep parafoveal density, deep temporal density and deep superior density values than both healthy pregnant and non-pregnant patients. All the pregnant participants had higher peripapillary retinal nerve fiber thickness values compared with the non-pregnant controls, while only those with preeclampsia had higher peripapillary vascular density values.2

“In preeclampsia, OCT-A shows changes in the microvascular structure of the retina, even without retinopathy findings on biomicroscopy examination,” the researchers concluded.2

1. Mayo Clinic. Preeclampsia. Accessed August 2, 2019.

2. Ciloglu E, Okcu NT, Dogan NC. Optical coherence tomography angiography findings in preeclampsia. Eye (London). July 17, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].