Aims: To systematically review the literature on the prevalence and incidence of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and macular oedema (MO).
Methods: A search of the bibliographic databases (Medline, Embase, CINAHL) was conducted up to October 2001. Selected relevant studies were scrutinized and included in the review.
Results: A total of 359 studies were included. The studies were reported in nearly 100 different journals and in over 50 countries. The majority of the studies were US-based, with large studies such as the Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy dominating the literature. The studies were quite dated and highly heterogeneous in nature in terms of patient selection with variable inclusion criteria (age range, gender, diabetes duration and type, ethnicity, comorbidity, and DR status, assessment, and classification).
Conclusions: There are inconsistencies between epidemiological studies, and differences in study methods may contribute to conflicting reports of prevalence and incidence of DR and MO in diabetic populations. As new therapies for DR and its associated complications emerge, the need to capture and monitor new epidemiological data becomes increasingly important to be able to assess the impact and effectiveness of these therapies. Robust, longitudinal capture of patient data is, therefore, essential to evaluate the impact of current practice on the epidemiology of diabetic eye complications.