The development and progression of diabetic retinopathy in type I diabetic patients: A cohort study

O. Kalter-Leibovici*, L. Leibovici, N. Loya, I. Kremer, R. Axer-Siegel, M. Karp, Z. Laron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To describe the course and risk factors for development and progression of retinopathy, we studied a cohort of 333 Israeli Jewish patients with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. The median age at diagnosis was 9.5 (range 0.04-26.2) years and the median duration of follow-up was 14 (range 1.6-30) years. Evaluation of both retinae was performed yearly since referral and HbA1 values were tested every 3 months since 1978. During a follow-up of 4070 patient-years, 162 patients developed non-proliferative retinopathy. The median retinopathy-free interval was 14.9 years and after 30 years all patients were affected. Pre-pubertal duration of diabetes was relevant. Independent and significant risk factors for early onset of non-proliferative retinopathy were: poor cumulative glycaemic control (median retinopathy-free interval in the 1st vs 4th quartiles of mean HbA1 values over all years: 18.0 vs 12.5 years, p = 0.0001); onset of diabetes during or after puberty (median retinopathy-free interval in patients with onset of diabetes before, during or after pubescence: 16.3, 13.2 and 14.0 years, respectively, p= 0.0001); and non-Ashkenazi Jewish origin (median retinopathy-free interval 15.8 years in Asbkenazi vs 14.0 in non-Ashkenazi patients, p = 0.0004). Of 162 patients with non-proliferative retinopathy, progression to proliferative retinopathy occurred in 37, during 707 patient-years. The first event of proliferative retinopathy was diagnosed within the 1st year after non- proliferative retinopathy evolved, and at 6.3 years since onset of non- proliferative retinopathy 75% of the patients were still free of proliferative changes. Risk factors significantly and independently associated with an early progression to the proliferative stage were: poor glycaemic control in the last 3 years prior to the development of proliferative retinopathy and non-Ashkenazi Jewish origin. All patients in the 4th quartile of HbA1 values were affected by proliferative retinopathy within 11.6 years after onset of non-proliferative retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-866
Number of pages9
JournalDiabetic Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1997


  • Cohort study
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Ethnic origin
  • Glycaemic control
  • Puberty
  • Type 1 diabetes


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