To investigate the comparable risk of developing proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) in African-Americans and whites with type 1 diabetes.


Using a cohort design with the sample drawn from medical records, the sample consisted of 312 people with type 1 diabetes (97 African-Americans, 215 whites) having at least two visits to a Model Demonstration Unit with gradeable fundus photographs (stereo, color, 7 standard fields). Excluded were subjects with preexisting or treated PDR or hemoglobinopathy. Masked grading of the fundus photographs was conducted at the Wisconsin Reading Center.


At baseline, African-Americans had poorer glycemic control (mean HbA1 of 11.3 vs. 10.0%, P < 0.0001), higher systolic blood pressure (mean of 117 vs. 110 mmHg, P < 0.001), and were older (mean of 26.8 vs. 19.3 years, P < 0.0001) than the white subjects. African-Americans also tended to have slightly longer duration of diabetes and length of follow- up. In the African-Americans, 17.5% developed PDR, compared with 10.2% in the 215 whites, for an odds ratio (OR) of 1.86 (95% CI 0.93–3.70). When adjusted for baseline glycemic control, retinopathy grade, and length of follow-up, race was not a significant risk factor (OR = 0.73, 95% CI 0.30–1.78).


African-Americans with type 1 diabetes may have a higher rate of developing PDR. The observed racial difference, however, is attributable to the presence of a worse risk factor profile, especially to poorer glycemic control. Efforts should be expanded to improve the care for all individuals with poor glycemic control.

This content is only available via PDF.