Retinopathy Risk in Kids Higher in Type 2 Than Type 1 Diabetes

Caleb Rans, PharmD

December 02, 2021

Patricia Bai

Children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D) appear significantly more likely to develop retinopathy and other ocular complications over time than children who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D), researchers report.

Among a population-based cohort of children (defined as younger than 22 years), the risk of diabetic retinopathy was 88% greater in those with T2D than T1D within the first 15 years of disease diagnosis.

"The purpose of this study was to assess the risk of developing diabetes-associated ocular complications among a population-based cohort of children diagnosed with either T1D or T2D during a 50-year period," lead author Patricia Bai, BA, of Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, and colleagues reported in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The researchers retrospectively reviewed medical records from all residents of Olmsted County, Minn., from 1970 to 2019. The study cohort included 606 children with a confirmed diagnosis of T1D or T2D, 525 (87%) of whom had at least one ocular examination.

The mean age at diabetes diagnosis was 12 years (standard deviation, 5.4 years); most participants were White (95.7% in 1990), and half (50%) were male. Diabetes-associated ocular complications occurred in 31.9% and 26.6% of children with T1D and T2D, respectively.

The hazard ratios illustrating the risk between T2D and T1D rates were 1.88 (95% confidence interval, 1.13-3.12; P = .02) for any diabetic retinopathy, 2.33 (95% CI, 0.99-5.50; P = .048) for proliferative diabetic retinopathy, 1.49 (95% CI, 0.46-4.89; P = .50) for diabetic macular edema, 2.43 (95% CI, 0.54-11.07; P = .24) for a visually significant cataract, and 4.06 (95% CI, 1.34-12.33; P = .007) for requiring pars plana vitrectomy within the first 15 years of diagnosis.

These results suggest that earlier surveillance and intervention may help prevent vision-threatening complications, the researchers explained.

"After adjusting for race using self-identified categories of White or not White, the adjusted HR of developing any retinopathy was 1.63 (95% CI, 0.96-2.79; P = .07), and the adjusted HR of developing proliferative diabetic retinopathy was 2.02 (95% CI, 0.79-5.16; P = .14)" in T2D versus T1D patients, the researchers wrote.

"We would expect the reported rate of type 2 diabetes to be potentially underestimated in our study cohort," Ms. Bai commented in an interview. "Race has been suggested to be a surrogate for other social determinants of health, such as lower rates of optimal follow-up care received by racial and ethnic minorities, which could influence subsequent retinopathy rates."

Understanding Retinopathy Outcomes in Youth

In an accompanying editorial, Jennifer K. Sun, MD, MPH, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, wrote that the present study indicates the natural history of retinopathy may differ between patients with T1D and T2D.

While the pathophysiology of diabetic retinopathy in T1D and T2D appears similar, other patient-related factors such as lipid profiles, the presence of hypertension, and body mass index may differ between the two disease states.

She wrote that "there is a particular need to document retinopathy outcomes and risk factors for advanced disease in youth with T2D, for whom there is a paucity of information."

Ms. Bai and colleagues acknowledged that a key limitation of the study was the retrospective design. As a result, irregular follow-up and incomplete data may limit the applicability of the findings.

"Some children with milder forms of diabetes may have eluded detection, a limitation that is more likely to affect T2D, which may exist undetected for years before a diagnosis," Bai explained.

Sun recommended that further epidemiologic studies are needed to help optimize guidelines for screening and follow-up for young people diagnosed with diabetes. "Such efforts may potentially lead to increased understanding of the mechanistic differences between pathology in T1D versus T2D," she concluded.

This study used the resources of the Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP) medical records linkage system, which is supported by grant funding from the National Institute on Aging, the Mayo Clinic Research Committee, and by fees paid annually by REP users. The study authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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