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Diabetes Care. 1998 Oct;21(10):1664-9.

Prevalence of retinopathy in people with diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and normal glucose tolerance.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Science and General Practice, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Finland.



Recently, an international expert committee published new revised criteria for diagnosing diabetes. According to the new criteria, the 2-h glucose level for diabetes in the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is the same as in the previous World Health Organization criteria, but the cut point for the fasting blood glucose level has been lowered to be equivalent to the 2-h OGTT level. Measurement of the fasting blood glucose level is preferred to the 2-h OGTT glucose level. The ability of the new cut point for fasting blood glucose to discriminate between those at a high and a low risk for retinopathy was tested in a population-based study


The population consisted of all the 1,008 subjects (456 men) born in 1935 and living in a Finnish city A screening for type 2 diabetes was carried out in the first phase. All participants who were not on antidiabetic medication were invited for an OGTT in the second phase. A fasting blood glucose value was measured from the diabetic subjects on antidiabetic medication. In addition, measurements of serum cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were made, and fundus photographs were taken. Altogether, 831 subjects (368 men) (82%) participated and constitute the eligible study population for the present analyses. Fundus photographs were available for 790 subjects (347 men) (95%).


There were 28 subjects (3.5%) who had mild retinopathic changes in the fundus photographs. Retinopathic changes were associated with higher fasting blood glucose levels, but not with any of the other background factors. The prevalence of retinopathy was 10.2% (95% CI 4.8-18.5) in subjects with a fasting blood glucose of > or =6.1 mmol/l, while it was 2.6% (1.5-4.0) in those with a lower fasting blood glucose level. In the former group, a majority (seven of nine) of the subjects with retinopathy were previously diagnosed diabetic patients. Some cases of retinopathy were found regardless the level of glycemia, and measurement of the 2-h OGTT glucose levels did not increase information.


The results of this population study give support to the use of fasting blood glucose levels in diagnosing type 2 diabetes. The lower limit of the highest decile of the fasting glucose level was 6.1 mmol/l, and it discriminated subjects at a high risk for retinopathy from those at a low risk. Because of the limited number of subjects with retinopathy in this study, the level of hyperglycemia associated with retinopathy cannot be estimated accurately.

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