In a new study, researchers found people with diabetes and eye disease have a five-fold increased risk of requiring intubation when hospitalized with COVID-19.
They identified for the first time the risk linked to diabetic retinopathy and COVID-19.
The research was conducted by a team at King’s College London.
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% in people with Type 1 diabetes and 30.0% in people with Type 2 diabetes.
The study tested 187 people with diabetes (179 with type 2 diabetes and 8 with type 1 diabetes) hospitalized with COVID-19.
Diabetic retinopathy was reported in 67 (36%) of patients, the majority with background retinopathy.
Of the 187 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19, 26% were intubated and 45% of these patients had retinopathy.
The team found retinopathy linked to a five-fold increased risk for intubation. In the cohort, 32% of patients died and no association was observed between retinopathy and mortality.
The team says this is the first time that retinopathy has been linked to severe COVID-19 in people with diabetes.
Retinopathy is a marker of damage to the blood vessels and the results suggest that such pre-existing damage to blood vessels may result in a more severe COVID-19 infection requiring intensive care treatment.
There is increasing evidence that there is big damage to the blood vessels in the lung and other organs in patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19.
People with diabetes are at high risk of vascular complications affecting the large and small blood vessels.
One author of the study is Dr. Antonella Corcillo from the School of Cardiovascular Medicine and Sciences.
The study is published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.
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