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Ophthalmology. 2012 Aug;119(8):1569-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.01.043. Epub 2012 Apr 6.

Risk of corticosteroid-induced hyperglycemia requiring medical therapy among patients with inflammatory eye diseases.

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  • 1The Ocular Inflammation Service and Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics, Department of Ophthalmology, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



To identify the incidence and risk factors for corticosteroid-induced hyperglycemia requiring medical therapy among patients with inflammatory eye diseases.


Retrospective cohort study.


Patients with ocular inflammation followed at 5 United States tertiary centers that initially were neither diabetic nor taking hypoglycemic medications.


Eligible patients who used oral corticosteroids during follow-up were identified and followed longitudinally for initiation of hypoglycemic medication over 1 year after beginning corticosteroids. The remaining eligible patients were followed for 1 year after their initial visit. Survival analysis was used to calculate the risk of hyperglycemia requiring medical therapy and to identify potential risk factors.


Initiation of hypoglycemic medications.


Among 2073 non-diabetic patients treated with oral corticosteroids, 25 (1.21%) initiated hypoglycemic therapy compared with 5 of 2666 patients (0.19%) not treated with oral corticosteroids (relative risk [RR], 4.39; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.68-11.5). The RR tended to be higher in association with higher initial doses (for initial doses <40 mg of prednisone per day: RR, 3.23; 95% CI, 1.08-9.64; for initial prednisone dose ≥40 mg/d: RR, 5.51; 95% CI, 2.01-15.1). Other risk factors for the initiation of hypoglycemic therapy included older age (RR [per each additional 10 years], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.15-1.85; P = 0.002) and African-American race (RR, 2.94; 95% CI, 1.34-6.43; P = 0.007).


These results suggest that the absolute risk of corticosteroid-induced hyperglycemia that is detected and treated with hypoglycemic therapy in the tertiary ocular inflammation setting is low (an excess cumulative risk on the order of 1% within 1 year), although on a relative scale it is approximately 4.4-fold higher than in patients not treated with oral corticosteroids. Older age and African-American race also were risk factors. Physicians who use systemic corticosteroids for ocular inflammatory diseases should be aware of this risk, and should consider surveillance for hyperglycemia among high-risk patients. However, given the low absolute risk, routine laboratory monitoring or referral for monitoring may not be necessary for low-risk patients.

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