Researchers from Saudi Arabia recently determined that those who have had diabetes for 11 years or longer have a five-fold increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (DR) compared with those who’ve had it for fewer than five years, regardless of disease stage. The risk of DR was higher when considering the moderating effects of HbA1c level and diabetes duration. However, there was no statistically significant relationship between HbA1c and DR severity.

After examining 130 patients with diabetes (mean duration of 11.5 years), the team reported that 73.1% had no apparent DR, 8.5% had mild nonproliferative DR (NPDR), 8.5% had moderate NPDR, 8.5% had severe NPDR and only 1.5% had proliferative DR. The researchers also found that the potential for diabetic patients to develop DR with an HbA1c ≥7% was 6.9-times greater than those with an HbA1c <7%.

The study’s statistical analysis showed an insignificant relationship between DR and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. A chi-square test showed an insignificant relationship between cholesterol levels and the severity of DR, as well as between triglycerides and the severity of DR.

“Screening is essential for people with diabetes, even those with a controlled HbA1c, especially if they have had diabetes for a long time,” the researchers concluded in their paper. “Early detection is vital to avoid the late presentation of severe DR and to prevent blindness.”

Almutairi NM, Alahmadi S, Alharbi M, et al. The association between hba1c and other biomarkers with the prevalence and severity of diabetic retinopathy. Cureus. 2021;13(1):e12520.