Blood sugar levels may predict future retinopathy risk

Individuals who have poorly controlled type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes may be at greater risk of developing retinopathy, according to a new study from a team of French researchers. They found that persistently high levels of blood sugar are a strong indicator of future retinopathy risk.

The Hospital Lariboisière researchers reported their findings in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology. They said that the information helps clear up some debate over the role that blood sugar levels play in the development of retinopathy and could provide medical professionals with a way of measuring a patient's risk for the condition.

For the study, the researchers recruited 700 men and women. At the outset, doctors examined participants' retinas and took blood sugar readings. The individuals were then followed for a period of ten years.

By the end of the study period, the researchers noted a strong correlation between initial blood sugar readings and the development of retinopathy. Participants with the condition had 22 percent higher fasting blood sugar levels and 12 percent higher HbA1c levels at the start of the study compared to participants who did not develop retinopathy.

The researchers wrote in their report that the findings suggest that blood sugar and HbA1c levels could be used as a relatively accurate measurement of a patient's retinopathy risk. This could help doctors identify patients who most need to make lifestyle changes to avoid potentially serious complications.

"We propose that thresholds of 108 milligrams per deciliter for fasting plasma glucose concentration and 6.0 percent for HbA1c level could be used to define those who are at risk of retinopathy," they wrote.