Does Ethnicity Have Anything to Do With Retinopathy?

Does Ethnicity Have Anything to Do With Retinopathy: Retinopathy is something everyone with diabetes is concerned about. After all the eyes are a window on all we hold dear. With our eyes we have seen husband, wife, children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents. We’ve seen friends and majestic scenes. We’ve watched the sunset and have thrilled to the early morning rise of the sun.

ScienceDaily.com recently reported on a study by the University of Warwick in the UK. This study shows, “Diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina) is more prevalent in South Asians and occurs earlier than in White European people with diabetes.”

The original study was published in DiabetesCare and contrasted the health profiles of, “1,035 patients with type 2 diabetes, 421 were of South Asian origin and 614 were White Europeans. The results showed 45% of South Asians had retinopathy, compared to 37% of White Europeans, and 16% of the South Asian group had sight threatening retinopathy, compared to 12% White Europeans.”

The study also indicated that South Asian adults seem to contract Type 2 diabetes about 4 years earlier than White Europeans. The average age for South Asians to contract diabetes is 53. Retinopathy in South Asians is seen an average of seven years earlier than their White European counterparts.



For this study ScienceDaily.com reported, “Researchers collected clinical data from 10 GP practices in the Foleshill area of Coventry. Details on risk factors including blood pressure, duration of diabetes, age at onset of diabetes and cholesterol were recorded.” This information covering hundreds of patients was used to develop statistical data.

The outcome of this study has researchers urging screenings for South Asians in an effort to catch onset diabetes early and treat accordingly.

Professor Sudhesh Kumar, Professor of Medicine, Diabetes & Endocrinology at Warwick Medical School said, “The South Asian participants in this study had significantly higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures and cholesterol levels. Systematic screening for retinopathy, combined with intensive management of diabetes, including reduction of blood glucose and blood pressure, could help to reduce the incidence of visual impairment and blindness in ethnic minority groups across the world, addressing an important health inequality.”

Physicians argue that an early diagnosis can help them slow the deterioration of the retina allowing patience full use of their vision for the longest time period possible.

A press release from the University of Warwick cites fellow research co-author Dr Paul O’Hare as saying: “Screening for diabetic retinopathy is becoming more systematic across the UK and the developed world. However, coverage rates and uptake among ethnic minority groups in inner city areas may be much lower than those for white Europeans. We need to address this to try and rectify these important health inequalities.”

The National Institute on Health reports, “Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

“In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

“If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.”

The University of Warwick remains an advocate of early screening among all at-risk groups. While this research was isolated to a specific region within the UK it should serve as a red flag for other researchers to explore similar data in their specific regions.