Retinopathy is an important sequela of diabetes mellitus, but clinical risk factors for this condition have rarely been assessed in a geographically defined population. In this population-based study, the 1135 Rochester, Minnesota, residents with diabetes mellitus initially diagnosed between 1945 and 1969 (incidence cohort) were followed through their complete medical records in the community to January 1, 1982. Because most of the cases of diabetic retinopathy in Rochester residents developed in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), risk factors for diabetic retinopathy were examined in this group (N = 1031). A proportional hazards model identified the following risk factors for diabetic retinopathy in NIDDM: elevated initial fasting blood glucose level, marked obesity, and earlier age at onset of diabetes. Stratified analyses indicated that duration of diabetes was also significantly associated with an increased risk of retinopathy. Two secular trends, increasing detection of “mild” NIDDM and decreasing risk of diabetic retinopathy, had a major effect on retinopathy risk assessment. These data also suggest that insulin therapy is not an independent risk factor for diabetic retinopathy.

This content is only available via PDF.