Retinal Vascular Geometry Predicts Incident Renal Dysfunction in Young People With Type 1 Diabetes

  1. Kim C. Donaghue, FRACP, PHD1,2
  1. 1The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, Australia
  2. 2Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Centre for Eye Research Australia, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, University of Melbourne, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  5. 5School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6Department of Medicine, St. Vincent’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia and
  7. 7Singapore Eye Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Queenstown, Singapore
  1. Corresponding author: Kim C. Donaghue, kimd{at}


OBJECTIVE To examine the relationship between retinal vascular geometry parameters and development of incident renal dysfunction in young people with type 1 diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS This was a prospective cohort study of 511 adolescents with type 1 diabetes of at least 2 years duration, with normal albumin excretion rate (AER) and no retinopathy at baseline while attending an Australian tertiary-care hospital. AER was quantified using three overnight, timed urine specimen collections and early renal dysfunction was defined as AER >7.5 μg/min. Retinal vascular geometry (including length-to-diameter ratio [LDR] and simple tortuosity [ST]) was quantified from baseline retinal photographs. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine the relationship between incident renal dysfunction and baseline venular LDR and ST, adjusting for age, diabetes duration, glycated hemoglobin (A1C), blood pressure (BP), BMI, and cholesterol.

RESULTS Diabetes duration at baseline was 4.8 (IQR 3.3–7.5) years. After a median 3.7 (2.3–5.7) years follow-up, 34% of participants developed incident renal dysfunction. In multivariate analysis, higher retinal venular LDR (odds ratio 1.7, 95% CI 1.2–2.4; quartile 4 vs. 1–3) and lower venular ST (1.6, 1.1–2.2; quartile 1 vs. 2–4) predicted incident renal dysfunction.

CONCLUSIONS Retinal venular geometry independently predicted incident renal dysfunction in young people with type 1 diabetes. These noninvasive retinal measures may help to elucidate early mechanistic pathways for microvascular complications. Retinal venular geometry may be a useful tool to identify individuals at high risk of renal disease early in the course of diabetes.

  • Received June 21, 2011.
  • Accepted November 28, 2011.

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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 35 no. 3 599-604
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