Retinal vessel calibre and micro- and macrovascular complications in type 1 diabetes

Diabetologia. 2009 Oct;52(10):2213-7. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1459-8. Epub 2009 Jul 18.


Aims/hypothesis: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the association between retinal vascular calibre and micro- and macrovascular complications in a population-based cohort of Danish type 1 diabetic patients.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of 208 long-surviving type 1 diabetic patients from a population-based Danish cohort. Retinal photographs were obtained at a clinical examination attended by each participant in 2007-2008, and retinal vascular calibre was measured and summarised as the central retinal artery or vein equivalent (CRAE or CRVE) using a computer-based program and a standardised protocol. Associations between retinal vascular calibre and micro- and macrovascular complications were examined after adjusting for confounding clinical characteristics.

Results: Retinal photographs were gradable for 188 of 208 patients (90.3%). The median age and duration of diabetes for patients with gradable photos were 57.9 and 42 years, respectively. After multivariate adjustments, individuals with narrower retinal arterioles were more likely to have nephropathy (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.29-3.68, per SD decrease in CRAE) and macrovascular disease (OR 3.17, 95% CI 1.59-6.34, per SD decrease in CRAE), but not neuropathy (OR 1.10, 95% CI 0.70-1.71, per SD decrease in CRAE). Retinal venular calibre was not associated with any micro- or macrovascular complications.

Conclusions/interpretation: In type 1 diabetic patients, retinal arteriolar narrowing is associated with nephropathy and macrovascular disease independently of other clinical characteristics. If supported by further prospective studies, measurement of retinal vessel diameter may allow a non-invasive evaluation of the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology
  • White People