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12-06-2011 | General practice | Article

Diabetic eye complications may arise early in disease process


Free abstract

MedWire News: Approximately one fifth of newly diagnosed diabetic patients may have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, study results show.

This, say Ka Man Lee and Wing Man Sum, from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, suggests that diabetic complications may arise even before a diagnosis of diabetes is made.

They add that all patients should therefore be screened for retinopathy as soon as diabetes is diagnosed.

Lee and Sum recruited 12,112 patients with Type 2 diabetes and a mean age of 59.5 years. Of these, 3510 were newly diagnosed, defined as having diabetes duration of up to 1 year. All patients underwent fundoscopy to determine the presence and extent of retinopathy.

Writing in the journal of Clinical and Experimental Optometry, Lee and Sum report that 18.2% of the patients with newly diagnosed diabetes had retinopathy. Most (85.3%) had mild retinopathy, but 7.0% had sight-threatening retinopathy.

When Lee and Sum investigated the effect of hypertension and smoking on the development of diabetic retinopathy, they found no significant association between either variable and the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy.

"One explanation is that control of tight blood pressure is more important to the progression of established retinopathy than the onset of diabetic retinopathy," suggest the investigators.

They further hypothesize that the absence of an association between smoking and diabetic retinopathy development may be due to inaccurate patient reporting of smoking status.

Lee and Sum conclude that irrespective of the mechanism by which the eye condition arises in newly diagnosed diabetics, "a systematic screening program in the community is needed for early detection and to relieve blindness in diabetic patients."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lauretta Ihonor

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