Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly - share many risks factors as atherosclerosis, which exhibits loss of vascular compliance resulting from aging and oxidative stress. Here, we attempt to explore choroidal and retinal vascular compliance in patients with AMD by evaluating dynamic vascular changes using live ocular imaging following treatment with oral sildenafil citrate, a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor and potent vasodilator. Enhanced-depth imaging optical coherence tomography (EDI-OCT) and OCT angiography (OCT-A) were performed on 46 eyes of 23 subjects, including 15 patients with non-exudative AMD in one eye and exudative AMD in the fellow eye, and 8 age-matched control subjects. Choroidal thickness, choroidal vascularity, and retinal vessel density were measured across the central macula at 1 and 3 hours after a 100 mg oral dose of sildenafil citrate. Baseline choroidal thickness was 172.1 ± 60.0 μm in non-exudative AMD eyes, 196.4 ± 89.8 μm in exudative AMD eyes, and 207.4 ± 77.7 μm in control eyes, with no difference between the 3 groups (P = 0.116). After sildenafil, choroidal thickness increased by 6.0% to 9.0% at 1 and 3 hours in all groups (P = 0.001–0.014). Eyes from older subjects were associated with choroidal thinning at baseline (P = 0.005) and showed less choroidal expansion at 1 hour and 3 hours after sildenafil (P = 0.001) regardless of AMD status (P = 0.666). The choroidal thickening appeared to be primarily attributed to expansion of the stroma rather than luminal component. Retinal vascular density remained unchanged after sildenafil in all 3 groups (P = 0.281–0.587). Together, our studies suggest that vascular response of the choroid to sildenafil decreases with age, but is not affected by the presence of non-exudative or exudative AMD, providing insight into changes in vessel compliance in aging and AMD.
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