Research summary

The Association Between Patients With Diabetic Retinopathy and Quality of Life

Jessica Ganga

Vision-related quality of life in patients with diabetic retinopathy declines with the presence and increasing severity of the disease, according to a study’s researchers.

A total of 93 articles were included in a systematic review and meta-analysis where researchers investigated the association between diabetic retinopathy and vision-related and general health-related quality of life. Of the 93 articles, 79 were included in the meta-analyses and 14 in the narrative results.

“To our knowledge, no previous review has conducted a meta-analysis of evidence regarding the association between [diabetic retinopathy] and [quality of life],” the authors noted.

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Vision-related quality of life was recorded in 54 studies, health-related quality of life in 26 studies, and both in 13 studies. The researchers used the National Eye Institute 25-item Visual Function Questionnaire (VFG-25) scale for visual-related quality of life (n = 49) and the Short form (SF) Health Survey for health-related quality of life (n = 18).

The researchers’ first analysis consisted of eight studies including 1138 participants with diabetic retinopathy and 347 participants without diabetic retinopathy. For patients with the disease, the composite VFQ-25 score was 3.8 points lower in those with any diabetic retinopathy when compared with those without the disease. For patients with vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy, the VFQ-25 score was 25.1 points lower than those without diabetic retinopathy.

In their second analysis, the researchers looked at 35 studies including 6451 total participants with diabetic retinopathy. The pooled mean VFQ-25 composite score was 91.8 (95% CI, 72.6 to 73.7) for those with non-vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, 77.6 (95% CI, 76.9 to 78.3) for any diabetic retinopathy, and 73.2 (95% CI, 72.6 to 73.7) for vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy.

“This analysis found that [vision-related quality of life] declines with the presence and increasing severity of [diabetic retinopathy]. This decline is not fully explained by the impact of [diabetic retinopathy] on [visual acuity]. Therapies that prevent the development or progression of [diabetic retinopathy], even before advanced stages, may improve [vision-related quality of life],” the researchers concluded.


Zayed MG, Karsan W, Peto T, Saravanan P, Virgili G, Preiss D. Diabetic retinopathy and quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Opthalmol. 2024;142(3):199-207. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2023.6435