Diabetic retinopathy has been found in nearly 8 percent of pre-diabetic participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), according to a report presented today at the American Diabetes Association’s 65th Annual Scientific Sessions. Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss, was also seen in 12 percent of participants with type 2 diabetes who developed diabetes during the DPP. No other long-term study has evaluated retinopathy in a population so carefully examined for the presence or development of type 2 diabetes.
“These findings reinforce the recommendation that patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes should be screened for retinopathy,” said Emily Chew, M.D., of the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which funded the study. “We advise good control of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as well as regular eye exams.”
“Previous studies have not accurately defined when type 2 diabetes begins, so our understanding of the onset of diabetic eye disease has been limited. Now we know that diabetic retinopathy does occur in pre-diabetes. We?re also seeing it early in the course of diabetes – within an average of 3 years after diagnosis,” noted Richard Hamman, M.D., DrPH, professor and chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, and vice chair of the DPP. “This adds to our understanding of the development of retinopathy and suggests that changes in the eye may be starting earlier and at lower glucose levels than we previously thought.”
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. The condition is sometimes called “impaired fasting glucose (IFG)” or “impaired glucose tolerance (IGT),” depending on the test used to diagnose it. People with pre-diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Diabetic retinopathy, which begins with changes in the small vessels in the back of the eye, often leads to loss of vision. Regular eye examinations to diagnose retinopathy are recommended for patients with diabetes because treatment with laser photocoagulation can often prevent blindness in more advanced cases. Diabetic retinopathy is still the most common cause of blindness in adults.