Researchers recently discovered that diabetic patients with renal function impairment also showed a decrease in their retinal vessel density on OCT angiography (OCT-A), indicating the technology’s value in detecting early microvascular damage in the kidneys.

This prospective cross-sectional study recruited 874 eyes of 874 ocular patients with diabetes, all of whom were treatment-naïve. The researchers documented the retinal vessel density of the superficial capillary plexus in the macula with OCT-A and calculated the estimated glomerular filtrate rate (eGFR). Based on this rate, participants were divided into the following groups: non-chronic kidney disease (CKD), mild chronic kidney disease and those with moderate-to-severe disease.

The investigators found a significantly lower vessel density in patients with kidney disease, with densities of 49.1%±2.1% in those without any renal impairment, 48.4%±1.9% in patients with mild disease and 47.2%±1.7% in moderate-to-severe chronic kidney disease. They noted that sparser retinal capillaries were linked with lower eGFR and higher microalbuminuria, adding that the eGFR was independently associated with parafoveal vessel density, even after adjusting for other factors. 

Wang W, He M, Gong X, et al. Association of renal function with retinal vessel density in patients with type 2 diabetes by using swept-source optical coherence tomographic angiography. Br J Ophthalmol. February 25, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].