Updated Retinal Bulletin

Advances in retinal research and cures.

Ocular Complications in Children with Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a well-known cause of multiple ophthalmic problems in adults, including diabetic retinopathy (DR), macular edema, cataract, refractive change, and microvascular paralytic strabismus. Diabetic retinopathy and macular edema progress to the ultimate ocular complication of blindness in 12 000 to 24 000 new patients each year in the United States, making DM the leading cause of blindness among American adults aged 20 to 74 years.1 The Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study and the Diabetic Retinopathy Study demonstrated that early recognition and treatment of diabetic macular edema and proliferative DR (PDR) in patients with DM reduced the risk of moderate and severe vision loss.2,3 Therefore, there has been a fervent public health effort to establish ophthalmic screening regimens for those with DM, beginning at an early age. For a screening program to be worthwhile, it must identify a disease that is asymptomatic and has a cost-effective treatment, conditions that generally are met by DR.

Current guidelines by the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourage annual screening examinations for all patients with type 1 DM to begin 5 years after diagnosis of DM.4 However, the age at diagnosis and prevalence of DR among children are not well established, with varied reports in the literature, and there is a paucity of information about the onset and prevalence of other diabetic ocular complications among children because the majority of studies have focused on DR. Some data are available with regard to modifiable risk factors to prevent the development of ophthalmic complications of DM, but not particularly in the very young. Findings from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) demonstrated that intensive glucose control in children aged 13 to 17 years with type 1 DM reduced the risk of development of DR by 53%.5,6 The risk of DR seems to increase with increased duration of DM,7-9 but 1 study of DM in young children suggested that development of type 1 DM at a very young age (i.e., ‹5 years) might protect against the development of DR.10 Even less is known about DR risk and incidence among children with type 2 DM, which is an increasingly important population to study given the growing prevalence of children with this disease. In light of our limited knowledge of the age at onset and prevalence of these ocular complications, the clinical effectiveness of annual diabetic eye examinations in children is unclear. We sought to determine the prevalence and onset of ocular pathology among children with DM, including DR, cataract, high refractive error, and strabismus. We also sought to identify potential risk factors for ocular disease and to recommend an updated ophthalmic screening regimen for asymptomatic children with DM on the basis of our study results and a review of the literature.

Full Paper: Ocular Complications in Children with Diabetes Mellitus
(365K PDF)