Retinopathy a marker for systemic disease morbidity, mortality in diabetics

May 2, 2005

Diabetic patients with severe retinopathy should be carefully followed and treated for renal and cardiovascular disease, according to Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, who spoke during the "Ocular Pathology&#8212Beyond the Eye" symposium at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting.

May 2 - Fort Lauderdale, FL - Diabetic patients with severe retinopathy should be carefully followed and treated for renal and cardiovascular disease, according to Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, who spoke during the "Ocular Pathology-Beyond the Eye" symposium at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting.

Early studies by Berkow, Caird, and Davis in the 1960s and 1970s showed that retinopathy severity was associated with an increased risk of mortality in patients with diabetes. In a more recent study, diabetic patients with severe retinopathy have been shown to be at increased risk for diabetic nephropathy and ischemic heart disease leading to death, said Dr. Klein, who presented results of the Wisconsin Epidemiological Study of Diabetic Retinopathy.

This large population study followed almost 3,000 patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes over a 15-year period. In the type I diabetes group, individuals with severe retinopathy were found to have uncontrolled hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetic nephropathy, and history of heart attack. In the type II diabetes group, severe retinopathy was associated with nephropathy.

"Diabetic patients with moderate retinopathy should be examined frequently by their primary care physicians to detect and treat elevated blood pressure, early renal disease, and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Klein of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.