Objectives: It was suggested that the years of diabetes preceding puberty may not contribute to the development of retinopathy but evidence for this is conflicting. To verify the influence of pre-pubertal diabetes, we compared the correlations between prevalence of retinopathy and diabetes duration in patients who developed type 1 diabetes before and after puberty.
Methods: Six hundred and twenty-eight patients with diabetes onset at age< or =29, on insulin treatment and aged< or =60 at the time of screening for retinopathy were considered retrospectively. Pre-pubertal age was defined as 0-12 in males and 0-11 in females. Two hundred patients had developed diabetes before puberty and 428 after puberty. Screening was by ophthalmoscopy + 35 mm photography or digital photography.
Results: Prevalence of retinopathy was lower among patients with pre-pubertal onset and diabetes durations 10-14 and 15-19 years (p=0.006 and p=0.003, respectively) but prevalence rates became similar after 20 yrs duration.
Conclusion: That retinopathy is infrequent and mild during childhood, is probably due to the short duration of diabetes rather than a specific protective effect of pre-puberty. After 20 years' duration, however, the prevalence of retinopathy is no longer influenced by age at onset, suggesting that, in the longer term, pre-pubertal years do contribute to the onset of retinopathy.