People with diabetes and retinotherapy have 5-fold risk of developing severe Covid: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 25, 2020 Published on November 25, 2020

A new study has found that people with diabetes and eye disease have a five-fold increased risk of requiring ventilation when hospitalised due to coronavirus infection.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, identified for the first time the risk associated with diabetic retinopathy and Covid-19.

Retinopathy is any damage to the retina of the eyes, which may cause vision impairment. Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects the eyes.

Study author Antonella Corcillo from King’s College London in the UK said: “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 our results suggest that such pre-existing damage to blood vessels may result in a more severe Covid-19 infection requiring intensive care treatment,” Corcillo added.


For the study, the researchers analysed 187 people with diabetes (179 with type 2 diabetes and eight with type 1 diabetes) hospitalised with Covid-19. Diabetic retinopathy was reported in 67 (36 per cent) of patients, the majority with background retinopathy.

Of the 187 patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19, 26 per cent were intubated and 45 per cent of these patients had retinopathy.


According to the researchers, there is a growing body of evidence that there is significant damage to the blood vessels in the lung and other organs in patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19.

They further noted that people with diabetes are at high risk of vascular complications affecting the large and small blood vessels.

“We hypothesize that the presence of diabetes-related vascular disease such as retinopathy may result in greater vulnerability and susceptibility to respiratory failure in severe Covid-19,” study author Janaka Karalliedde.

The researchers concluded that further studies are required to explore the link between markers and manifestations of diabetic vascular disease such as retinopathy and severe Covid-19.

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Published on November 25, 2020
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