• PURPOSE: To describe the prevalence and risk factors of diabetic retinopathy in a multi-ethnic US population of whites, blacks, hispanics, and chinese. • DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of 778 individuals from ages 45 to 85 years with diabetes, participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). • METHODS: Retinal photographs were obtained with a 45°nonmydriatic digital fundus camera. Presence and severity of diabetic retinopathy were graded at a central reading center on the basis of a modification of the Airlie House classification system. All participants underwent a standardized interview, examination, and laboratory investigations. • RESULTS: In this population with diabetes, the prevalence of any retinopathy was 33.2% and macular edema 9.0%. The prevalence of any diabetic retinopathy and macular edema was significantly higher in blacks (36.7% and 11.1%) and hispanics (37.4% and 10.7%) than in whites (24.8% and 2.7%) and chinese (25.7% and 8.9%) (P = .01 and P = .007, comparing racial/ethnic differences for retinopathy and macular edema, respectively). Significant independent predictors of any retinopathy were longer duration of diabetes, higher fasting serum glucose, use of diabetic oral medication or insulin, and greater waist-hip ratio. Race was not an independent predictor of any retinopathy. • CONCLUSIONS: This study provides contemporary data on the prevalence of and risk factors for diabetic retinopathy among whites, blacks, hispanics, and chinese participating in the MESA.
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