Objective: This study aimed to determine the prevalence and characteristics of diabetic retinopathy (DR) in a defined older Australian population.
Design: A total of 3654 persons 49 years of age or older, 88% of permanent residents from an urban area west of Sydney, underwent a detailed eye examination. This included detailed medical history, Zeiss stereo retinal photography, fasting blood glucose, and other blood factors. The diagnosis of DR was made clinically and from photographic grading in persons with a history or biochemical evidence of diabetes.
Results: Diabetes was present in 7% (95% confidence interval, 6.2-7.8) of the population. Signs of DR were found in 82 participants (2.3%; 95% confidence interval, 1.9-2.8). The prevalence was 1.7% in persons younger than 60 years of age, 2.4% in persons 60 to 69 years of age, 2.7% in persons 70 to 79 years of age, and 2.3% in persons 80 years of age or older. There was no significant gender difference in prevalence. After adjusting for age, gender, and the duration since diagnosis of diabetes, higher blood glucose was related to the finding of moderate-to-severe retinopathy (Wisconsin levels 4-7) compared to milder retinopathy (Wisconsin levels 1.5-3). No association was found between the presence of any retinopathy and blood glucose, a history of hypertension or elevated blood pressure, body-mass index, blood lipids, creatinine, or coagulation factors.
Conclusions: This Australian study has found similar prevalence rates for DR to a recent U.S. population-based study but lower rates for vision-threatening retinopathy than from clinic-based reports. Previous reports of a relationship between advanced retinopathy and blood glucose were supported. Other than diabetes duration and insulin treatment, no other associations with retinopathy were found.