The importance of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) activation in retinopathy for long-standing diabetes is not well understood. We determined retinopathy stage and evaluated associations with other vascular complications before and after physiological RAAS activation in adults with long-standing (≥50 years duration) type 1 diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Participants underwent retinal examination by digital funduscopic photography and optical coherence tomography and were classified as having nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), or no diabetic retinopathy (NDR) with or without diabetic macular edema (DME). Neuropathy was measured by clinical neuropathy examination scores, electrophysiologically, and by corneal confocal microscopy. Renal function was measured by inulin and para-aminohippurate clearance methods. Arterial stiffness was measured by applanation tonometry. Renal function, blood pressure, and arterial stiffness were measured before and after RAAS activation with angiotensin II (ANGII). Associations were determined using linear regression.
Twelve (16%) of the 75 participants had NDR, 24 (32%) had NPDR, and 39 (52%) had PDR. A low overall prevalence of DME (4%) was observed. Those with PDR had worse nerve function and reduced corneal nerve density, were more likely to have macrovascular disease, and had increased arterial stiffness in response to ANGII compared with those with NPDR or NDR. Prevalence of kidney disease or renal hemodynamic function did not differ by retinopathy status.
PDR was associated with neuropathy severity and cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease. In those with PDR, RAAS activation may be linked to vascular stiffening, an effect that persists in long-standing type 1 diabetes.