Association Between the Severity of Diabetic Retinopathy and Falls in an Asian Population With Diabetes: The Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases Study

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Abstract

Importance

The presence and severity of diabetic retinopathy (DR) may contribute to the risk of falling in persons with diabetes, but evidence is currently equivocal.

Objective

To investigate the associations of diabetes and DR severity with the likelihood of falls in a multiethnic Asian population.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Cross-sectional post hoc analysis of the Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases study, a population-based study of participants from 3 ethnic groups (3280 Malay, 3400 Indian, and 3353 Chinese individuals) conducted from 2004 to 2011. Of these participants, 552 had data missing on diabetes, falls history, or other covariates or had ungradable fundus photographs and were excluded, leaving 9481 participants. These 9481 underwent a standardized clinical examination and responded to an interviewer-administered questionnaire that collected clinical and sociodemographic information. Multivariable logistic regression models adjusted for confounding fall risk factors assessed the associations of falls with diabetes, DR, and DR severity. A trend analysis was conducted in participants with diabetes to assess if risk of falling was associated with DR severity. Data were analyzed from January 1 through April 30, 2017.

Exposures

Diabetes was defined as a random glucose level of at least 200 mg/dL, hemoglobin A1c concentration of at least 6.5% of total hemoglobin, self-reported use of diabetic medication, or history of physician-diagnosed diabetes. Severity of DR was graded as none, minimal, mild, moderate, and vision threatening (VT).

Main Outcomes and Measures

A self-reported fall occurring in the previous 12 months, when the participant fell and landed on the ground.

Results

Of the 9481 participants with a mean (SD) age of 58.7 (10.3) years (4781 women [50.4%]), 6612 (69.7%) had no diabetes and 2869 (30.3%) had diabetes, of whom 857 (29.9%) had DR in at least 1 eye. A history of falls was reported in 872 (13.2%) without diabetes, 328 (16.3%) with no DR, 44 (14.2%) with minimal DR, 54 (26.2%) with mild DR, 34 (27.2%) with moderate DR, and 43 (19.9%) with VTDR (P for trend < .001). In multivariable models, those with DR were more likely to have fallen (odds ratio [OR], 1.31; 95% CI, 1.07-1.60; P = .008) compared with those with no diabetes; no associations were found for participants without DR compared with those with no diabetes. In addition, compared with participants with diabetes but without DR, those with mild (OR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.23-2.67; P = .003) and moderate (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.16-3.07; P = .01) nonproliferative DR were more likely to have fallen. Having VTDR was not independently associated with a higher likelihood of falling.

Conclusions and Relevance

The presence of mild to moderate nonproliferative DR was independently associated with an increased likelihood of falling in persons with diabetes compared with persons with diabetes but without DR. Management strategies for diabetes should incorporate fall education and prevention information, particularly in patients with early-stage DR. Longitudinal studies exploring the association between mild to moderate nonproliferative DR and falling will be required to confirm these findings.

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