open access


Purpose: To examine the relationship between the cardiovascular status and variations in optical coherence tomography (OCT)-derived parameters of the peripapillary and macular tissues, and macular vascular flow area measured by optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) in healthy subjects.

Design: Prospective, open-label, non-randomized clinical study.

Methods: Twenty one eyes of 21 healthy subjects were analyzed using a swept-source device, including OCT and OCTA acquisitions. Cardiovascular changes were investigated by performing a practical hand-grip test (HGT). Blood pressure, heart rate, OCT and OCTA structural and vascular changes were measured and analyzed before and after the HGT-induced exercise.

Results: The mean patient age was 34.0 (± 15.2) years. While both diastolic and systolic blood pressures increased significantly aft er exercise (p < 0.001 and p = 0.003, respectively), the heart rate did not show a significant increment (p = 0.182). OCT structural parameters of the optic nerve did not change significantly. Instead, a significant redistribution of choroidal thickness (CT) was observed in the macular region, with a significant reduction (-6.5%, p = 0.001) in the outer-nasal macular sector after exercise. OCTA acquisitions did not show changes in the vascular density of both the superficial retinal layer and deep retinal layer.

Conclusions: We demonstrated that HGT-induced exercise can moderately elevate blood pressure without detectable effects on OCTA-derived parameters in healthy young subjects. Moreover, it produced a significant redistribution of CT. Further studies are needed to better explain the possible role of HGT in the characterization of the pathophysiology of ocular diseases associated with abnormalities of the vascular function such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.