Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to analyse the risk profile for diabetic retinopathy under real-life conditions in a large cohort of patients with type 1 diabetes.
Methods: Patients (n = 18,891) with childhood, adolescent or adult onset of type 1 diabetes from the prospective German Diabetes Documentation System survey were analysed. A total of 8,784 patients fulfilled the inclusion criterion, which was availability of retinopathy status. Retinopathy grading (any retinopathy, advanced retinopathy), treatment regimens and risk factors were prospectively recorded and tested as covariates by Kaplan-Meier analysis and logistic regression.
Results: Any retinopathy was present in 27.4% and advanced retinopathy (severe non-proliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy) in 8.0% of the cohort. After 40 years of diabetes, the cumulative proportion of patients with any retinopathy and advanced retinopathy was 84.1% and 50.2%, respectively. In multiple regression analysis, risk factors for any retinopathy were diabetes duration (OR 1.167 per year), HbA(1c) >7.0% (53 mmol/mol) (OR 2.225), smoking (OR 1.295) and male sex (OR 1.187) (p < 0.0001 for all). Young age at onset (5 vs 15 years at disease onset) was protective (0.410, p < 0.0001). No glycaemic threshold was detected for retinopathy protection. Risk factors for advanced retinopathy were duration (1.124 per year, p < 0.0001), male sex (1.323, p = 0.0020), HbA(1c) >7.0% (53 mmol/mol) (1.499, p < 0.0001), triacylglycerol >1.7 mmol/l (1.398, p = 0.0013) and blood pressure >140/90 mmHg (1.911, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions/interpretation: The prevalence of retinopathy remains significant in type 1 diabetes. Any improvement of metabolic control and non-smoking is protective, while hypertension affects progression to severe levels under real-life conditions. These data reinforce the validity of multifactorial concepts for morbidity protection in type 1 diabetes.