Prevalence of Diabetic Eye Diseases in American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) as Identified by the Indian Health Service's National Teleophthalmology Program Using Ultrawide Field Imaging (UWFI)

Date Published:

2021 Nov 02


PURPOSE: Estimates of diabetic eye disease in American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) vary over time, region, and methods. This article reports recent prevalence of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME) in AI/AN served by the Indian Health Services' (IHS) teleophthalmology program, as identified using ultrawide field imaging (UWFI). METHODS: This was a retrospective analysis of 2016-2019 clinical data (n = 53,900). UWF images were acquired by certified imagers using a validated protocol, and graded by licensed, certified optometrists supervised by an ophthalmologist. Graders evaluated the extent/severity of retinal lesions in comparison to standard photographs. DR lesions predominantly in any peripheral field were considered "predominantly peripheral lesions" (PPL). The analyses calculated prevalence of any DR, any DME, DR and DME severity, sight-threatening disease, and PPL. RESULTS: Patients averaged 56 years of age with a 68 mmol/mol A1c and 55% had had diabetes for 5+ years. Prevalence of any DR, any DME, and sight-threatening disease was 28.6%, 3.0%, and 3.0%. In patients with mild nonproliferative DR, PPL was seen in 25.3%. PPL suggested a more severe level of DR in 8.7% of patients. DR increased with age. DME decreased with age. Males and patients in the Nashville IHS area had more diabetic eye disease. CONCLUSION: AI/AN have a high burden of diabetes and its complications. The IHS is resource-constrained, making accurate disease estimates necessary for resource allocation and budget justifications to Congress. These data update the estimates of diabetic eye disease in Indian Country and suggest that UWFI identifies early DR.

Last updated on 12/02/2021