Screening Eye Exams in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes under 18 Years of Age: Once May be Enough?

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adolescents, diabetic retinopathy, screening, type 1 diabetes

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Case series and registry data suggest that diabetic retinopathy requiring treatment is rare in youth with type 1 diabetes (T1D) prior to 18 years of age. We evaluated this question in the standardized clinical trial setting by retrospectively reviewing diabetic retinopathy examinations from participants in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) who were 13 to <18 years of age at randomization. Standardized stereoscopic 7-field fundus photographs were obtained every 6 months during DCCT (1983-1993). Photographs were graded centrally using the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) scale. Transitions in diabetic retinopathy status over time were described. A total of 195 participants with median baseline glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of 9.3% (103 in the conventional and 92 in the intensive treatment groups) had an average of 5.3 diabetic retinopathy assessments during 2.3 years of follow-up (range 1-11) while under 18 years of age during the DCCT. No participant developed severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy or proliferative diabetic retinopathy and only one participant (in the intensive group) reached clinically significant macular edema (CSME) while less than 18 years of age. In this incident case, baseline characteristics included diabetes duration 9.3 years, HbA1c 10.3%, LDL 131 mg/dL, and mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (35/35 ETDRS scale); CSME resolved without treatment. Similar analyses using age cut-offs of <19, 20, or 21 years showed a slight rise in diabetic retinopathy requiring treatment over late adolescence. Clinical trial evidence suggests that frequent eye exams may not be universally necessary in youth <18 years of age with T1D.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Pediatric Diabetes, v. 20, issue 6, p. 743-749