Increased prevalence of proliferative retinopathy in patients with type 1 diabetes who are deficient in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase

Diabetologia. 2011 Jun;54(6):1539-42. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2099-3. Epub 2011 Mar 5.


Aims/hypothesis: Impaired activity of the pentose phosphate pathway of glucose metabolism caused by hereditary deficiency of its key regulatory enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) has consequences that may worsen or attenuate the course of diabetic complications. Decreased availability of NADPH can predispose to oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction, but can also limit the activity of the polyol pathway and cholesterol synthesis. Reduced availability of pentose phosphates for nucleic acid synthesis could impair cell proliferation. We sought to learn in which direction G6PD deficiency affects diabetic retinopathy.

Methods: We enrolled patients who were G6PD-deficient or -sufficient with type 1 diabetes of duration 15 years or longer for whom HbA(1c) records were available for at least the previous 3 years. Renal failure and smoking were exclusion criteria. For each participant seven standard field colour photographs were obtained of each eye, and retinopathy was graded in a masked fashion.

Results: The clinical characteristics of the 19 G6PD-deficient patients studied (age 42 ± 9 years, diabetes duration 24 ± 6 years, average HbA(1c) over 3 years 6.7 ± 0.8%) were similar to those of the 35 G6PD-sufficient patients. Almost 90% of patients in both groups had retinopathy; however, proliferative retinopathy was noted solely among G6PD-deficient patients (28%, p = 0.0036 vs G6PD-sufficient). The G6PD-deficient patients also showed a trend for increased frequency of microalbuminuria.

Conclusions/interpretation: The data suggest that G6PD deficiency accelerates the microvascular complications of diabetes, and that among the consequences of G6PD deficiency those that can enhance the damage caused by diabetes outweigh those that could be protective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / epidemiology*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency / complications*
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency / metabolism
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase