London: People with diabetes and eye disease are five times more likely to be hospitalized with Kovid-19, the findings of a new study suggest.
The study, published today in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice at King’s College London, identified the risk for diabetic retinopathy and Covid-19.
Diabetic eye disease is a common complication of diabetes and is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the eye. In 2014, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 54.6% of those with type 1 diabetes and 30.0% of those with type 2 diabetes.
Between March 12 and April 7, 2020, a study of 187 people with diabetes (179 with type 2 diabetes and 8 with type 1 diabetes) hospitalized with Covid-19 at the Guy’s and St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust.
Diabetic retinopathy was reported in 67 (36%) patients, most of whom had background retinopathy. Of the 187 patients hospitalized with acute Covid-19, 26% had infiltration and 45% had retinopathy. Retinopathy is associated with a fivefold increased risk for intubation. In the cohort, 32% of patients died and no association was observed between retinopathy and mortality.
The first author of the study was Dr Grissy of the School of Cardiovascular Medicine and Sciences, King’s College London. Antonella Corsillo said: “Retinopathy in people with diabetes is the first to incorporate severe Covid-19. Retinopathy is a marker for blood vessels and our results suggest that pre-existing damage to blood vessels may lead to more severe Covid-19 infection requiring intensive care.
Dr Janaka Karallidade, senior author of King’s College London, said: “There is increasing evidence that patients hospitalized with severe Covid-19 have significant damage to the blood vessels in the lungs and other organs. People with diabetes are at high risk for vascular complications affecting large and small blood vessels.
“We hypothesize that the presence of diabetes-related vascular disease, such as retinopathy, may be associated with greater impairment and susceptibility to respiratory failure in acute Covid-19. Therefore, searching for the presence or history of retinopathy or other vascular complications can help health care professionals identify patients at high risk for acute Covid-19. . Further studies are needed to investigate potential mechanisms that may explain the link between markers and manifestations of diabetic vascular disease such as retinopathy and acute Covid-19. ”
RNIB Specialist Lead for Eye Health Luis Gou said: “The RNIB hopes that this research will increase awareness of serious complications from Kovid-19. As the vaccine program is underway, people should pay attention to diabetic retinopathy. Information about Kovid-19 is essential in making it accessible to people with vision loss.” They know how to protect themselves from it. ”
Limitations of this study include its relatively small sample size and because it is a cross-sectional study, it is not possible to identify a causal relationship between retinopathy and acute Covid-19 outcomes.

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