To evaluate neurodegeneration in patients with type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM2) without diabetic retinopathy, and to assess the possible role of chronic systemic ischaemia and disease duration in retinal changes.
Observational cross sectional study.
Sixty eyes of 60 patients with DM2 without signs of diabetic retinopathy (DR), and 60 eyes of 60 healthy controls underwent retinal (ganglion cell layer (GCL), and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and choroidal evaluation using Swept source Optical coherence tomography, which allows high quality analysis of the different retinal layers and the choroidal plexus. Comparison between patients with presence/absence of systemic vascular complications and different disease duration time was performed.
Macular GCL and RNFL were reduced in patients compared to controls (p < 0.001). In the peripapillary area, a reduction of the RNFL (p < 0.001) was observed in patients with DM2. There were no significant changes observed in the choroidal plexus of these patients. Patients with systemic ischaemia presented significant thinning of the choroid and further reduction of the temporal RNFL (p = 0.014) and GCL (p = 0.016) thickness. The GCL and the choroid were also thinner in patients with longer disease duration.
Patients with early DM2 present retinal neurodegeneration prior to the appearance of clinically observable vascular retinal changes. In these patients chronic systemic ischaemia caused reduction of the choroidal plexus and further damage to the retinal layers, adding new information on systemic chronic ischaemia and retinal neurodegeneration in patients with DM2 without DR.