INTRODUCTION: The retina shares similar anatomical and physiological features with the brain and subtle variations in retinal microvascular parameters (RMPs) may reflect similar vascular variation in the brain. The aim of this study was to assess associations between RMPs and measures of depression in the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
METHODS: RMPs (arteriolar and venular caliber, fractal dimension and tortuosity) were measured from optic disc centred fundus images using semi-automated software. Depression was characterised by the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) in the absence of mild cognitive impairment or use of anti-depressive medications. Associations between depression and RMPs were assessed by regression analyses with adjustment for potential confounders.
RESULTS: Data were available for 1376 participants of which 113 (8.2%) and 1263 (91.8%) were classified with and without depression. Participants had a mean age of 62.0 ± 8.4 yrs., 52% were female, and 8% were smokers. Individuals with depression had a higher CES-D score than those without (22.0 ± 6.2 versus 4.4 ± 3.9). Lower values of arteriolar tortuosity were significantly associated with depression, before and after adjustment for potential confounders (odds ratio = 0.79; 95% confidence intervals: 0.65, 0.96; P = 0.02).
CONCLUSION: Decreased retinal arteriolar tortuosity, a measure of the complexity of the retinal microvasculature was associated with depression in older adults independent of potential confounding factors. Retinal measures may offer opportunistic assessment of microvascular health associated with outcomes of depression.