Chronic depression symptoms and salivary NOx are associated with retinal vascular dysregulation: the SABPA study.

Background Depression has been associated with impaired nitric oxide (NO)-mediated vasodilation and vascular dysregulation (VD). Whether depression and NO levels will disturb retinal hemodynamics is not clear. Objectives and methods Associations between the retinal vasculature, diastolic ocular perfusion pressure (DOPP) as measure of hypoperfusion, NO metabolites (NOx) and depression symptoms were assessed. Chronic VD risk markers [depression symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire/PHQ-9 ≥ 10) and 24h pulse pressure] were determined in a bi-ethnic cohort (n=313; 48.6 ± 9 years; 53.9% men). At 3 year follow-up, retinal vessel calibre and retinopathy signs were quantified from digital images. Salivary NOx, a novel approach, was obtained pre- and post-flicker light-induced provocation (FLIP). DOPP was defined as diastolic blood pressure minus intraocular pressure. Results Chronic VD risk was evident in Blacks opposed to acute risk in Whites (P<0.05). At follow-up, retinopathy (Blacks 60.4%/Whites 39.6%), lower pre-FLIP (µM) and higher post-FLIP NOx (%), arteriolar narrowing and wider venular calibre values were evident in Blacks compared to Whites, independent of confounders. A wider venular calibre, an index of stroke risk, was associated with chronic depression symptoms [cut point 248 MU: Area under the curve 0·61 (95% CI: 0·51, 0·72); 71% sensitivity; 55% specificity] as well as with hypoperfusion in the Blacks. In this group, arteriolar narrowing was associated with hypoperfusion; and attenuated arteriolar dilation with increased FLIP NOx responses (%). Conclusions Higher NOx increased arteriolar vasoconstriction, presumably impeded perfusion and facilitated VD. Chronic depression symptoms may trigger disturbed NOx and retinal hemodynamics in Blacks and thereby potentiate stroke risk