The study analysed the retinal photographs of 9390 adults participating in a long-term study.
Researchers found that when scans revealed any form of abnormality in the retina, there was a 2.16 times greater risk of developing PAD than in a patient without retinal changes. There was also a 3.41 times greater risk of developing critical limb ischemia (CLI), which is the most severe form of PAD.
The associations between retinal damage and PAD were stronger in people with diabetes, than those without.
Dr Chao Yang, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, highlighted to OT that PAD was often considered to be a large artery disease.
“These findings suggest the involvement of microvascular disease in the progression to critical limb ischemia,” he explained.
“Our results also indicate that retinal findings may be useful in risk stratification of PAD/CLI, especially in those with diabetes,” Dr Yang added.
Further research would aim to confirm the findings in other settings, he highlighted.
“Once confirmed, it seems important to examine whether retinal findings can guide us to targeted foot care and improved prognosis among patients with diabetes,” Dr Yang concluded.