Cross-sectional study evaluating the relationship between: a) functional and structural measurements of neurodegeneration in initial stages of diabetic retinopathy (DR); and b) presence of neurodegeneration and early microvascular impairment. We analyzed baseline data of patients with type 2 diabetes (n=449) enrolled in the EUROCONDOR study (NCT01726075). Functional studies by multifocal ERG (mfERG) evaluated neurodysfunction and structural measurements using spectral domain optical-coherence tomography (SD-OCT) evaluated neurodegeneration. The mfERG P1 amplitude was more sensitive than the P1 implicit time (IT), and was lower in patients with ETDRS 20-35 than in patients with ETDRS <20 (p=0.005). In 58% of cases, mfERG abnormalities were present in the absence of visible retinopathy. Correspondence between SD-OCT thinning and mfERG abnormalities was shown in 67% of the eyes with ETDRS <20 and in 83% of the eyes with ETDRS 20-35. Notably, 32% of patients with ETDRS 20-35 presented no abnormalities in mfERG or SD-OCT. We conclude that there is a link between mfERG and SD-OCT measurements which increases with the presence of microvascular impairment. However, in our particular study population (ETDRS ≤ 35) a significant proportion of patients had normal GC-IPL thickness and normal mfERG findings. We raise the hypothesis that neurodegeneration may play a role in the pathogenesis of DR in many, but not in all type 2 diabetic patients.
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