Study makes link between ethnicity, type 1 diabetes and sight loss

People of African Caribbean ethnicity and with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk of losing their sight and therefore could benefit from more regular eye checks, research has suggested.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found that African Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes are at 39% greater risk of developing sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy, which if untreated can lead to blindness.

The King’s College, London-led study followed a diverse population group from south London over six years, all of whom had type 1 diabetes but no signs of retinopathy.

By the end of study, the researchers found that African Caribbean ethnicity was a risk factor for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy, even when adjusted for traditional risk predictors such glucose control and blood pressure as well as socioeconomic status.

The study also found the African Caribbean and the Caucasian group, which had the least risk, attended the same number of eye screenings.

The researchers recommended that more thorough eye examinations may be needed for at-risk groups.

Hilary Nathan, policy director at type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “This is important research because it helps us begin to understand how rates of type 1 diabetes disease progression can be more aggressive across different ethnicity patient populations.

“Findings like these can help evidence and design more personalised treatment pathways helping to prevent sight loss and disability,” she added.

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