(HealthDay News) – Two consecutive annual digital retinal photographic screenings can be used to estimate the risk of future progression to sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy (STDR), according to a study published online Nov. 12 in Diabetes Care.

Irene M. Stratton, from Cheltenham General Hospital in the United Kingdom, and associates used longitudinal data from retinal photographs in the population-based National Health Service Diabetic Eye Screening Program to estimate the risk for STDR. A total of 14,554 patients with no DR or only mild non-proliferative DR at two consecutive annual screenings were categorized at each screening according to the presence of DR in neither, one, or both eyes, and were followed for a median of 2.8 years.

The researchers found that 120 of the 7,246 with no DR at either screening progressed to STDR, which represented an annual rate of 0.7%. Eighty of the 1,778 with no DR in either eye at first screening, and with DR in one eye at the second screening, progressed to STDR, representing an annual rate of 1.9%, with a hazard ratio of 2.9 vs. those with no DR. Two hundred ninety-nine of the 1,159 with background DR in both eyes at both screenings progressed to STDR, representing an annual rate of 11%, with a hazard ratio of 18.2 vs. those with no DR.

“Combining the results from two consecutive years of photographic screening enables estimation of the risk of future development of STDR,” the authors write. “In countries with systematic screening programs, these results could inform decisions about screening frequency.”

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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