-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Nov. 18, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Damage to the blood
vessels of the eyes or kidneys might help identify people who are
at raised risk for a common type of heart-rhythm disorder, a new
The disorder, called atrial fibrillation, is common in older
people and increases the risk of stroke. It also can trigger
heart-related chest pain or heart failure in some patients, the
In the new study, which is scheduled for presentation Monday at
the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas,
researchers followed more than 10,000 middle-aged people for an
average of almost 14 years.
Researchers led by Sunil Agarwal, of Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, found that microvascular changes -- trouble in the
smaller vessels of the eyes or kidneys -- appeared to be linked to
the presence of atrial fibrillation.
For example, while about six out of every 1,000 people with no
microvascular disease developed the heart-rhythm disorder, that
figure rose to about nine out of every 1,000 for people with
micro-bleeds or micro-aneurysms in the smaller vessels of the eye's
retina, the researchers said.
That number rose to almost 17 per 1,000 people for those with
signs of vessel damage in the kidneys. It increased to more than 24
per 1,000 in people who had vessel damage in both the eyes and
kidneys, the study found.
Why this vessel damage appears to be tied to a higher risk for
atrial fibrillation remains unclear, the researchers said.
One expert not connected to the study theorized that
small-vessel damage might be an underlying cause of atrial
"This [study] suggests that a potential trigger for developing atrial fibrillation may be worsening microvascular disease," said Dr. Neil Sanghvi, an electrophysiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Therefore, treatments that are able to minimize or prevent microvascular damage may be able to decrease the incidence of atrial fibrillation."
Dr. Kenneth Ong is interim chief of cardiology at the Brooklyn
Hospital Center in New York City. "Damage to the vessels in the
eyes and kidneys are thought to reflect similar findings in the
rest of the body, including the heart," he said.
He added that it's "reasonable to speculate" that patients with
such damage might be at higher risk for heart disease.
Sanghvi said patients who have vessel damage in the eyes or
kidneys "should consider long-term monitoring, on the order of one
or two weeks," to gauge their risk for undetected atrial
Experts note that findings presented at medical meetings
typically are considered preliminary until published in a
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
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