Background: Microvascular disease and hypertension have been linked with risk of diabetes mellitus. We examined the association of retinal arteriolar narrowing, a marker of chronic hypertension, with incident diabetes.
Methods: Prospective cohort study of 3251 nondiabetic persons aged 43 to 86 years living in Wisconsin. The diameters of retinal vessels were measured from baseline retinal photographs of participants. Retinal measurements were summarized as the retinal arteriole-to-venule ratio, with smaller ratios indicating narrower arteriolar diameters. Incident diabetes cases were ascertained at the 5-year and 10-year follow-up examinations.
Results: There were 249 incident diabetes cases. Participants with narrower retinal arteriolar diameters had a higher incidence of diabetes (cumulative incidences of 5.1%, 7.0%, 9.2%, and 11.7%, comparing decreasing quartiles of arteriole-to-venule ratio). After controlling for baseline casual blood glucose level, glycosylated hemoglobin level, body mass index, and other risk factors, retinal arteriolar narrowing was significantly associated with risk of incident diabetes (multivariable-adjusted relative risk, 1.53; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-2.27; comparing smallest to largest arteriole-to-venule ratio quartiles). Participants with both hypertension and retinal arteriolar narrowing had a 3-fold higher risk of incident diabetes (multivariable-adjusted relative risk, 3.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.66-6.98) than normotensive participants without arteriolar narrowing.
Conclusions: Retinal arteriolar narrowing is related to risk of incident diabetes. These data suggest a possible link between systemic arteriolar narrowing associated with hypertension and diabetes development.