The influence of multiple systemic factors upon the blood velocities obtained from the orbital circulations was investigated. The velocities obtained by colour Doppler imaging from the ophthalmic artery, central retinal artery, and vein from 95 ophthalmologically healthy volunteers were analyzed. The effects of age, systemic blood pressure, and smoking habit were examined. In 24 volunteers blood viscosity was also measured and its relation with blood velocity assessed. Age was weakly negatively correlated with the blood velocities in the ophthalmic artery and weakly positively correlated with resistance to flow in the retinal circulation. Systolic blood pressure showed a positive correlation with the peak systolic velocities in the arteries while cigarette smoking was associated with lower ophthalmic artery velocities. Increased haematocrit and viscosity were positively correlated with resistance to flow proximal to the ophthalmic artery and red cell rigidity negatively correlated with the pulsatility of flow in the retinal vein. These results help to identify the roles of systemic conditions in the ocular circulation. The influence of blood viscosity on retinal venous flow may be relevant to the pathogenetic mechanisms of conditions such as central retinal vein occlusion.
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