Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that intensive glycaemic control (INT) and higher plasma C-peptide levels in patients with poorly controlled diabetes would be associated with better eye outcomes.
Methods: The incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy (DR) was assessed by grading seven-field stereoscopic fundus photographs at baseline and 5 years later in 858 of 1,791 participants in the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial (VADT).
Results: After adjustment for all covariates, risk of progression (but not incidence) of DR increased by 30% for each 1% increase in baseline HbA1c (OR 1.3; 95% CI 1.123, 1.503; p = 0.0004). Neither assignment to INT nor age was independently associated with DR in the entire cohort. However, INT showed a biphasic interaction with age. The incidence of DR was decreased in INT participants ≤55 years of age (OR 0.49; 95% CI 0.24, 1.0) but increased in those ≥70 years old (OR 2.88; 95% CI 1.0, 8.24) (p = 0.0043). The incidence of DR was reduced by 67.2% with each 1 pmol/ml increment in baseline C-peptide (OR 0.328; 95% CI 0.155, 0.7; p = 0.0037). Baseline C-peptide was also an independent inverse risk factor for the progression of DR, with a reduction of 47% with each 1 pmol/ml increase in C-peptide (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.305, 0.921; p = 0.0244).
Conclusions/interpretation: Poor glucose control at baseline was associated with an increased risk of progression of DR. INT was associated with a decreased incidence of DR in younger patients but with an increased risk of DR in older patients. Higher C-peptide at baseline was associated with reduced incidence and progression of DR.