Retinopathy begins at lower level than used to diagnose diabetes, study says

Blood sugar levels below what is considered diabetic indicate a complication of the disease that leads to blindness, Australian researchers report.

Victoria, Australia-Blood sugar levels below what is considered diabetic indicate a complication of the disease that leads to blindness, Australian researchers report.

"Retinopathy, which is one of the complications traditionally associated with diabetes, occurs at fasting glucose levels below the threshold that is used to define diabetes," said lead researcher Tien Y. Wong, MD, PhD, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne.

Researchers found in three studies analyzing retinopathy among 11,405 people that the prevalence of retinopathy ranged from 9.6% to 15.8% in the general population. The current threshold for diabetes diagnosis, which is 7.0mmol/L, missed 60% of retinopathy cases.

This suggests that eye damage happens much earlier and at lower blood sugar levels than what is currently used to determine the presence of diabetes, Dr. Wong said.

"This suggests that diagnostic threshold may have to be revised, so that we can pick up more people who are at risk of eye and other complications," he noted.