To describe the prevalence, incidence, and progression of retinopathy and to report associations with demographic, clinical, and biochemical variables in people with diabetes in Southern Malawi.
Prospective cohort study.
Subjects were systematically sampled from 2 primary care diabetes clinics.
We performed the first prospective cohort study of diabetic retinopathy from Sub-Saharan Africa over 24 months. Visual acuity, glycemic control, blood pressure, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status, urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio, hemoglobin, and lipids were assessed. Retinopathy was graded at an accredited reading center using modified Wisconsin grading of 4-field mydriatic photographs.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Incidence of sight-threatening retinopathy and progression of retinopathy by 2 steps on the Liverpool Diabetic Eye Study Scale.
A total of 357 subjects were recruited to the 24-month cohort study. At baseline, 13.4% of subjects were HIV positive and 15.1% were anemic. The 2-year incidence of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy (STDR) for subjects with level 10 (no retinopathy), level 20 (background), and level 30 (preproliferative) retinopathy at baseline was 2.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1-5.3), 27.3% (95% CI, 16.4-38.2), and 25.0% (95% CI, 0-67.4), respectively. In a multivariate logistic analysis, 2-step progression of diabetic retinopathy was associated with glycosylated hemoglobin (odds ratio [OR], 1.27; 95% CI, 1.12-1.45), baseline grade of retinopathy (OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.02-1.91), and HIV infection (OR, 0.16; 95% CI, 0.03-0.78). At 2 years, 17 subjects (5.8%) lost ≥15 letters.
Incidence of STDR was approximately 3 times that reported in recent European studies. The negative association of HIV infection with retinopathy progression is a new finding.