Gaining insight about kidney health from the retina

Researchers from University of Edinburgh highlight in a new study that the retina thins as kidney function declines

A woman’s hazel eye is shown close up with a beam of light shining vertically through the centre of the pupil
Getty/Zorica Nastasic

A new study published in Nature Communications has highlighted a potential role for retinal imaging in the monitoring of kidney disease. 

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh examined the optical coherence tomography (OCT) images from 204 patients at different stages of kidney disease, alongside 86 healthy volunteers.

The scientists found that patients with chronic kidney disease had thinner retinas on average compared with healthy volunteers. The results also illustrated thinning of the retina as kidney function declined.

In patients who received a kidney transplant, researchers observed how patients experienced a rapid thickening of their retinas following surgery.

Dr Neeraj Dhaun, a professor of nephrology at the University of Edinburgh, highlighted the potential of the findings in aiding early detection of kidney disease.

“We hope that this research, which shows that the eye is a useful window into the kidney, will help identify more people with early kidney disease – providing an opportunity to start treatments before it progresses,” he said.

Dr Aisling McMahon, executive director of research and policy at Kidney Research UK, shared that the approach could lead to improvements in monitoring.

“Kidney patients often face invasive procedures to monitor their kidney health, often on top of receiving gruelling treatments like dialysis,” she said.

“This fantastic research shows the potential for a far kinder way of monitoring kidney health,” McMahon highlighted.