To examine the relationship of systemic markers of inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and serum folate level to retinal vessel diameter.
Cross-sectional analyses were completed for data from a random sample of 396 persons aged 50 to 86 years who underwent a baseline examination from 1988 to 1990. Standardized protocols for blood collection and measurement of markers were used. Diameters of arterioles and venules were measured from digitized photographs. Standard univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.
While controlling for age, smoking status, diabetes status, serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and hematocrit, wider retinal venular diameters were associated with higher serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and amyloid A levels. While controlling for age, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, smoking, serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, and gout, smaller arteriolar diameters were associated with higher serum amyloid A and lower serum albumin and folate levels but not high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or interleukin 6 levels. Levels of serum soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and serum soluble E-selectin, markers of endothelial dysfunction, were not associated with retinal arteriolar or venular diameters.
These data show an association of inflammatory markers with larger retinal venular diameter, suggesting that retinal venular caliber may be a marker of systemic inflammation.