Objective: This study aimed to analyze the effect of HbA1c variability on the occurrence of diabetic retinopathy in type 1 diabetes patients.
Patients and methods: 35,891 patients with childhood, adolescent or adult onset of type 1 diabetes from a large multicentre survey, the German/Austrian prospective documentation system (DPV), were analysed. Cox proportional hazard models were used to examine whether intra-individual HbA1c variability expressed as variation coefficient is an independent risk factor for the occurrence of diabetic retinopathy.
Results: Kaplan-Meier curves stratified by median HbA1c and variation coefficient revealed that retinopathy-free survival probability is lower when both median HbA1c and HbA1c variability are above the 50th percentile. Cox regression models confirmed this finding: After adjustment for age at diabetes onset, gender and median HbA1c, HbA1c variability was independently associated with the occurrence of diabetic retinopathy. Time-covariate interactions used to model non-proportionality indicated an effect decreasing with duration of diabetes for both median HbA1c and HbA1c variability. Predictive accuracy increased significantly when adding HbA1c variability to the Cox regression model.
Conclusions: In patients with type 1 diabetes, HbA1c variability adds to the risk of diabetic retinopathy independently of average metabolic control.