Author: Gábor Márk Somfai (Switzerland)
Co-authors: Irén Szalai, Fanni Pálya, Anita Csorba, Zoltán Zsolt Nagy, Miklós Tóth, Delia DeBuc
Regular physical exercise plays an important role in cardiovascular health and healthy aging and may have a positive effect on the retina and visual function. Even mild exercise (walking) seems to lead to a lower incidence of AMD in the elderly. Our aim was the in vivo examination of chorioretinal alterations in senior sportsmen following short intense physical strain as assessed by optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Semmelweis University, Department of Ophthalmology
Fifteen eyes of 15 healthy subjects (mean age 67.1 ± 7.6 years, 7 males and 8 females) were recruited, all of whom were senior athletes. The subjects underwent a vita maxima protocol straining on a cycle ergometer (Ergoline Ergoselect200) until reaching full fatigue. Macular scanning with a Spectralis SD-OCT device (Heidelberg Engineering, Germany) was performed before and 1, 5, 15, 30 and 60 minutes after the exercise. The OCT images were exported and analyzed using our custom-built OCTRIMA 3D software and the thickness of 7 retinal layers was calculated, along with semi-automated measurement of the choroidal thickness. One-way ANOVA analysis was performed followed by Dunnett post hoc test, the level of significance was set at 5%.
A significant thinning of the entire retina was observed 1 minute after exercise which was followed by a significant thickening at 5 minutes (-1.5±0.4µm, p= 0.000 and +1.2±0.4µm, p=0.005) with thickness values returning to baseline afterwards. This trend was similar throughout the most single layers of the retina; however, results were significant in the ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer complex (-0.36±0.1µm, p= 0.000 and +0.2±0.1 µm, p= 0.005 for 1 and 5 minutes, respectively). There was no significant change in choroidal thickness; nevertheless, we could detect a tendency towards thinning at 1 and 5 minutes with a rebound thickening 15 minutes following exercise. Changes in choroidal thickness did not show any correlation with the thickness changes of the intraretinal layers.
In senior sportsmen the acute retinal changes observed after strong physical strain are involving the entire macula; however, these changes seem to be pronounced at the level of the ganglion cells only. This is in contrast with our observations in young sportsmen and warrants further investigation including its role in the ageing processes of the eye.
Gábor Márk Somfai: Consultant for Allergan, Bayer, and Novartis