Risk of Blindness Among Patients With Diabetes and Newly Diagnosed Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes Care. 2021 Mar;44(3):748-756. doi: 10.2337/dc20-0413. Epub 2021 Jan 20.


Objective: To evaluate the association between initial diabetic retinopathy (DR) severity/risk of blindness in patients with newly diagnosed DR/good vision in the U.S.

Research design and methods: This retrospective cohort study evaluated adult patients with good vision (20/40 or better) and newly diagnosed DR between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2017 (index date) in the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Intelligent Research in Sight (IRIS) Registry. The primary exposure of interest was DR severity at index: mild nonproliferative DR (NPDR), moderate NPDR, severe NPDR, and proliferative DR (PDR). The main outcome measure was development of sustained blindness (SB), defined as study eyes with Snellen visual acuity readings of 20/200 or worse at two separate visits ≥3 months apart that did not improve beyond 20/100.

Results: Among 53,535 eligible eyes (mean follow-up 662.5 days), 678 (1.3%) eyes developed SB. Eyes with PDR at index represented 10.5% (5,629 of 53,535) of the analysis population but made up 26.5% (180 of 678) of eyes that developed SB. Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed that eyes with moderate NPDR, severe NPDR, and PDR at index were 2.6, 3.6, and 4.0 times more likely, respectively, to develop SB after 2 years of DR diagnosis versus eyes with mild DR at index. In a Cox proportional hazards model adjusted for index characteristics/development of ocular conditions during follow-up, eyes with PDR had an increased risk of developing SB versus eyes with mild NPDR at index (hazard ratio 2.26 [95% CI 2.09-2.45]).

Conclusions: In this longitudinal ophthalmologic registry population involving eyes with good vision, more advanced DR at first diagnosis was a significant risk factor for developing SB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blindness / diagnosis
  • Blindness / epidemiology
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy* / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Retinopathy* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Visual Acuity

Associated data

  • figshare/10.2337/figshare.13477362