Although retinal vasculitis is common in multiple sclerosis (MS), it is not known if MS is associated with quantitative abnormalities in retinal blood vessels (BVs). Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is suitable for examining the integrity of the anterior visual pathways in MS. In this paper we have compared the size and number of retinal blood vessels in patients with MS, with and without a history of optic neuritis (ON), and control subjects from the cross-sectional retinal images from OCT. Blood vessel diameter (BVD), blood vessel number (BVN), and retinal nerve fiber layer thickness (RNFLT) were extracted from OCT images collected from around the optic nerves of 129 eyes (24 control, 24 MS + ON, 81 MS-ON) of 71 subjects. Associations between blood vessel metrics, MS diagnosis, MS disability, ON, and RNFLT were evaluated using generalized estimating equation (GEE) models. MS eyes had a lower total BVD and BVN than control eyes. The effect was more pronounced with increased MS disability, and persisted in multivariate models adjusting for RNFLT and ON history. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of MS subjects had fewer retinal blood vessels than all control subjects. MS diagnosis, disability, and ON history were not associated with average blood vessel size. The relationship between MS and lower total BVD/BVN is not accounted for by RNFLT or ON. Further study is needed to determine the relationship between OCT blood vessel metrics and qualitative retinal blood vessel abnormalities in MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2321-2330
Number of pages10
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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