Anemic patients are significantly more likely to progress from nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), as well as diabetic macular edema (DME) and vision-threatening DR, according to research presented at this year’s Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting.

A Philadelphia-based research team performed a retrospective study of adult patients whose charts had lab values from 2002 to 2016. Of the 69,982 NPDR patients included, 12,270 progressed to vision-threatening DR, 2,162 progressed to PDR and 10,322 progressed to DME. Both mild and moderate-to-severe anemia were significantly associated with these changes, according to the researchers. Oxygen delivery-related comorbidities (chronic pulmonary disease, decreased kidney function, increasing hemoglobin A1c, insulin use, hypertension and high diabetic complications) were also associated with all three progressions.

Li Y, Yu Y, Vanderbeek B. Anemia and the risk of progression from non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy to vision threatening diabetic retinopathy. ARVO 2019. Abstract 1072.