Retinal vascular function and cardiovascular risk factors

  • Swathi Seshadri

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The current platform of conventional cardiovascular risk assessments tends to forsake the importance of endothelial function - a key biological mechanism by which cardiovascular risk factors exert their propensity for adverse vascular events. Moreover, the presence and severity of endothelial dysfunction in ‘low-risk’ individuals suggests considerable variability in pre-clinical risk that could potentially be detected well before the onset of disease. The aim of the present thesis was to investigate the presence and impact of retinal vascular dysfunction, as a barometer of endothelial function, in otherwise healthy individuals with one or more cardiovascular risk factors, but low to moderate cardiovascular risk. Systemic circulatory influences on retinal vascular function were also evaluated. The principle sections and findings of this work are:
1. Ageing effect on retinal vascular function
• In low-risk individuals, there are age differences in retinal vascular function throughout the entire functional response curve for arteries and veins. Gender differences mainly affect the dilatory phase and are only present in young individuals.
2. Retinal vascular function in healthy individuals with a family history of cardiovascular disease
• In low-risk individuals with a family history of cardiovascular disease, impairments in microvascular function at the retinal level correlate with established plasma markers for cardiovascular risk.
3. Ethnic differences in retinal vascular function
• When compared to age-matched White Europeans, in low-risk middle-aged South Asians, there are impairments in retinal vascular function that correlate with established cardiovascular risk indicators.
4. Systemic circulatory influences on retinalµvascular function
• Systemic antioxidant capacity (redox index) and plasma markers for cardiovascular risk (lipids) influence retinal microvascular function at both arterial and venous levels.
5. Retinal vascular function in individuals with obstructive sleep apnoea: a preliminarystudy
• Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnoea exhibit attenuated retinal vascular function.
Date of Award19 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorDoina Gherghel (Supervisor) & Aniko Ekárt (Supervisor)


  • endothelial function
  • dynamic retinal vessel analysis
  • cardiovascular risk
  • ageing
  • family history
  • ethnicity
  • sleep apnoea

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