Retina. 2020 Aug;40(8):1565-1573. doi: 10.1097/IAE.0000000000002626.


Purpose: To investigate hyperreflective foci (HF) on spectral-domain optical coherence tomography in patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus across different stages of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME) and to study clinical and morphological characteristics associated with HF.

Methods: Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography scans and color fundus photographs were obtained of 260 patients. Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography scans were graded for the number of HF and other morphological characteristics. The distribution of HF across different stages of DR and DME severity were studied. Linear mixed-model analysis was used to study associations between the number of HF and clinical and morphological parameters.

Results: Higher numbers of HF were found in patients with either stage of DME versus patients without DME (P < 0.001). A trend was observed between increasing numbers of HF and DR severity, although significance was only reached for moderate nonproliferative DR (P = 0.001) and proliferative DR (P = 0.019). Higher numbers of HF were associated with longer diabetes duration (P = 0.029), lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P = 0.005), and the presence of microalbuminuria (P = 0.005). In addition, HF were associated with morphological characteristics on spectral-domain optical coherence tomography, including central retinal thickness (P = 0.004), cysts (P < 0.001), subretinal fluid (P = 0.001), and disruption of the external limiting membrane (P = 0.018).

Conclusion: The number of HF was associated with different stages of DR and DME severity. The associations between HF and clinical and morphological characteristics can be of use in further studies evaluating the role of HF as a biomarker for disease progression and treatment response.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / classification
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnostic imaging
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macular Edema / classification
  • Macular Edema / diagnostic imaging
  • Macular Edema / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photography*
  • Retina / diagnostic imaging
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Slit Lamp Microscopy
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology