Background: Fluorophotometric variables (permeability of the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) and blood-aqueous barrier (BAB), corneal autofluorescence, and lenticular light transmittance) are reported to correlate with the severity of diabetic retinopathy. This preliminary multicenter study was performed to measure these variables simultaneously in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and to assess which of these variables could be of help in evaluating diabetic retinopathy.
Methods: Eighty-two patients with type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy were recruited in seven European university clinics. Each patient was investigated three times, at intervals of about one year. The investigations included fluorophotometric determination of corneal autofluorescence, lenticular light transmittance, and permeability of the BRB and BAB. Retinopathy was classified into four grades, using a simplified evaluation system based on the Modified Airlie House retinopathy classification and applied to color fundus slides of standard fields 1 and 2.
Results: Multiregression analyses revealed that only corneal autofluorescence and BRB permeability were correlated with the severity of diabetic retinopathy (P < 0.05). Corneal autofluorescence and BRB permeability as single variables were found to be indicative of severe nonproliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy (sensitivity 100% and 86%, respectively, and specificity 65% and 85%, respectively). Combination of both variables increased specificity to 92%.
Conclusions: This preliminary multicenter study shows that fluorophotometric variables can be measured simultaneously and reliably in patients with diabetes and that corneal autofluorescence and BRB permeability (individually or in combination) could be of help in detecting severe non-proliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy.