After following 727 adults with diabetes for six years, researchers found those with diabetic retinopathy (DR) were more that two times likely to develop cognitive impairment (CI) within the study time compared with patients without DR. The study was presented yesterday in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the ARVO annual meeting.

The investigators noted that 150 (20.6%) participants had minimal or mild DR at baseline, while 59 (8.1%) had moderate or worse DR at baseline. None had cognitive impairment at baseline. Upon follow-up, 41 (5.6%) had clinically confirmed cognitive impairment based on the validated Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT). In addition, the worse the DR grading, the higher the likelihood of developing cognitive impairment. 

“Since a significant correlation was found between a DR increase and risk of developing CI, this is one more reason why proper blood sugar control is key,” says Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, of Scranton, PA. “Additional strategies to prevent the development and progression of DR is essential in reducing the risk for additional morbidity, including cognitive impairment.”

Gupta P, Gan ATL, Ryan Man R, et al. Association between diabetic retinopathy and incident cognitive impairment. ARVO 2018. Abstract 2602.