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AIMS: To evaluate the relationship between best corrected visual acuity (BCVA), age, type of diabetes, sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy (STDR) and ocular co-morbidity. METHODS: 1549 randomly selected people with diabetes mellitus (DM) from a countywide digital photographic screening programme had standardised logarithm of minimum angle of resolution (logMAR) BCVA measurement, followed by slit-lamp biomicroscopy examination by an experienced ophthalmologist. RESULTS: Subnormal vision (logMAR > or =0.3, Snellen < or =6/12) and blindness (logMAR >1.3, Snellen <3/60) in the better-seeing eye were found in 9.0% and 0.45%. The sensitivity, specificity and positive and negative predictive values of using subnormal vision to screen for STDR in an individual eye were 33.4%, 85.9%, 18.6% and 93.0%, respectively. Important contributory causes of moderate visual loss (logMAR 0.50 to 0.98, Snellen 6/18 or worse but better than 6/60) and of Acuity Blindness (logMAR > or =1.0, Snellen 6/60 or worse) in an individual eye were lenticular opacity (including capsular opacification) 49%, macular degeneration (including myopic degeneration) 29%, diabetic maculopathy 15%, other media causes (including corneal opacity) 13% and amblyopia 10%. CONCLUSION: The majority of visual loss in a population with diabetes is due to causes other than diabetic retinopathy. BCVA alone is not a reliable criterion in predicting STDR.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Ophthalmol

Publication Date





775 - 778


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Amblyopia, Blindness, Cataract, Diabetes Mellitus, Diabetic Retinopathy, Female, Humans, Macular Degeneration, Male, Mass Screening, Middle Aged, Sensitivity and Specificity, Vision, Low, Visual Acuity