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The prevalence and severity of diabetic retinopathy, associated risk factors and vision loss in patients registered with type 2 diabetes in Luganville, Vanuatu
  1. Tasanee S T Smith1,
  2. John Szetu2,
  3. Rupert R A Bourne3
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Glaucoma Service, Department of Ophthalmology, Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, UK; International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London UK
  3. 3The Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand, Pacific Eye Institute, Honiara, Solomon Islands
  1. Correspondence to: Dr T S T Smith Department of Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK; tasaneesmith{at}


Aim: To determine the prevalence and severity of diabetic retinopathy in patients with type 2 diabetes in Luganville, the second largest town in Vanuatu. Additionally, to investigate risk factors for retinopathy and the effect of retinopathy on visual acuity (VA) within this group.

Method: All 83 registered patients with type 2 diabetes in Luganville, a town of 13 121 people, were invited for an interview and anthropometric measurements. A questionnaire including assessment of hypertension and glycaemic control, which are known risk factors for diabetic retinopathy, was administered. This sample accounted for approximately 1.07% of Luganville’s adult population. Presenting VA was measured. The retina was photographed with a non-mydriatic fundus camera and images later independently graded for the extent of retinopathy.

Results: 68 (82%) of the 83 patients attended. The mean (SD) age was 54 (11) years and 31 (46%) were male. Diabetic retinopathy was present in 36 (52.9%) of the sample. Sight-threatening retinopathy requiring urgent referral was present in 15 (22.1%) patients. Presenting VA was worse than 6/12 in the better eye in n = 32 (47%) and in up to half of these cases the principal cause was retinopathy. In addition, four people had uniocular blindness resulting from diabetes. The mean body mass index was lower in those patients with diabetes with retinopathy than in those without (p = 0.010), but there were no other significant differences between the two groups and, specifically, no difference in the frequency of retinopathy risk factors. 42 (61.8%) patients had hypertension (⩾135/85 mm Hg) or were taking antihypertensive therapy.

Conclusions: The prevalence of registered patients with diabetes in Luganville’s adult population was 1.07%. Diabetic retinopathy was highly prevalent in the sample (in 36, 52.9%), and in 15 (22.1%) there was a significant threat to sight, with up to 25% of the sample possibly already affected by decreased VA or blindness resulting from diabetes-related eye disease. Retinopathy risk factors were also prevalent. A diabetes screening programme with baseline ophthalmic assessment and follow-up are urgently needed to enable timely intervention and treatment.

  • BMI, body mass index
  • CSME, clinically significant macular oedema
  • VA, visual acuity

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  • Published Online First 31 October 2006

  • Funding: This project was funded by grants from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the British Commonwealth Foundation. We would like to thank Birmingham Optical for the loan of the NM-100 camera, and Lifescan for donating 400 blood glucose strips, lancets and several glucometers.

  • Competing interests: None declared.