Diabetic retinopathy in a remote Indigenous primary healthcare population: a Central Australian diabetic retinopathy screening study in the Telehealth Eye and Associated Medical Services Network project Academic Article uri icon


  • AIM:To determine diabetic retinopathy prevalence and severity among remote Indigenous Australians. METHODS:A cross-sectional diabetic retinopathy screening study of Indigenous adults with Type 2 diabetes was conducted by locally trained non-ophthalmic retinal imagers in a remote Aboriginal community-controlled primary healthcare clinic in Central Australia and certified non-ophthalmic graders in a retinal grading centre in Melbourne, Australia. The main outcome measure was prevalence of any diabetic retinopathy and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. RESULTS:Among 301 participants (33% male), gradable image rates were 78.7% (n = 237) for diabetic retinopathy and 83.1% (n = 250) for diabetic macular oedema, and 77.7% (n = 234) were gradable for both diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema. For the gradable subset, the median (range) age was 48 (19-86) years and known diabetes duration 9.0 (0-24) years. The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 47% (n = 110) and for diabetic macular oedema it was 14.4% (n = 36). In the fully gradable imaging studies, sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy prevalence was 16.2% (n = 38): 14.1% (n = 33) for clinically significant macular oedema, 1.3% (n = 3) for proliferative diabetic retinopathy and 0.9% (n = 2) for both. Sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy had been treated in 78% of detected cases. CONCLUSIONS:A novel telemedicine diabetic retinopathy screening service detected a higher prevalence of 'any' diabetic retinopathy and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy in a remote primary care setting than reported in earlier surveys among Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Whether the observed high prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was attributable to greater detection, increasing diabetic retinopathy prevalence, local factors, or a combination of these requires further investigation and, potentially, specific primary care guidelines for diabetic retinopathy management in remote Australia. Clinical Trials registration number: Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN 12616000370404.

publication date

  • 2018

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