Retinopathy and Risk of Kidney Disease in Persons With Diabetes

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Rationale & Objective: Retinopathy and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are typically considered microvascular complications of diabetes, and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases are considered macrovascular complications; however, all may share common pathological mechanisms. This study quantified the association of retinopathy with risk of kidney disease and compared with the association with cardiovascular disease in persons with diabetes. Study Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting & Participants: 1,759 participants in the ARIC study who had diabetes at visit 4 and underwent retinal examination at visit 3. Exposure: Retinopathy. Outcome: Prevalent CKD (estimated glomerular filtration rate [eGFR] < 60 mL/min/1.73 m2), prevalent albuminuria (urinary albumin-creatinine ratio [UACR] > 30 mg/g), incident CKD, incident end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), incident coronary heart disease (CHD), and incident stroke. Analytical Approach: The cross-sectional association of retinopathy with prevalent CKD and albuminuria was assessed by logistic regression. The associations between retinopathy, incident CKD, incident ESKD, incident CHD, and incident stroke were examined using Cox proportional hazards models. Seemingly unrelated regression was used to compare the strength of association between retinopathy and outcomes. Results: During the median follow-up period of 14.2 years, 723 participants developed CKD, and there were 109 ESKD events, 399 CHD events, and 196 stroke events. Compared with the participants without retinopathy, participants with retinopathy were more likely to have reduced eGFR (OR, 1.56 [95% CI, 1.09-2.23]) and UACR > 30 mg/g (OR, 1.61 [95% CI, 1.24-2.10]). Retinopathy was associated with risk of incident CKD (HR, 1.22 [95% CI, 1.02-1.46]), ESKD (HR, 1.69 [95% CI, 1.11-2.58]), CHD (HR, 1.46 [95% CI, 1.15-1.84]), and stroke (HR, 1.43 [95% CI, 1.03-1.97]). A stronger relationship was found between retinopathy and CHD when compared with retinopathy and CKD (P = 0.03); all other associations were similar. Limitations: Retinal examination and kidney measurements were taken at different visits. Conclusions: The presence of retinopathy was associated with higher prevalence of kidney disease and higher risk of incident CKD, ESKD, and CHD. These results may suggest that a similar mechanism underlies the development of retinopathy and other adverse outcomes in diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-815.e1
JournalKidney Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • end-stage kidney disease
  • retinopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Nephrology


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