Sub-clinical thickening of the fovea in diabetes and its relationship to glycaemic control: a study using swept-source optical coherence tomography

Ross T. Aitchison*, Graeme J. Kennedy, Xinhua Shu, David C. Mansfield, Uma Shahani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Accumulation of multiple pockets of fluid at the fovea, as a complication of poor blood glucose control in diabetes, causes impairment of central vision. A new ability to demonstrate a pre-clinical phase of this maculopathy could be valuable, enabling diabetic individuals to be alerted to the need to improve their glycaemic control. This study aimed to use swept-source optical coherence tomography (SS-OCT) to measure foveal thickness and macular volume in diabetic individuals without cystoid macular oedema, and in non-diabetic individuals, and relate these measures to participants' glycaemic control.

METHODS: Centre point thickness (CPT) and total macular volume (TMV) were measured using SS-OCT (DRI OCT Triton™, Topcon, Tokyo, Japan). Participants' glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA 1c) level was also assessed (A 1cNow®+ System, PTS Diagnostics, Indianapolis, IN, USA). The diabetic (n = 27) and non-diabetic (n = 27) groups were matched for age (p = 0.100) and sex (p = 0.414), and HbA 1c level differed between diabetic and non-diabetic groups (p < 0.0005). The diabetic group comprised type 1 (n = 7) and type 2 (n = 20) diabetic individuals who were matched for duration of diabetes (p = 0.617) and whose glycaemic control was similar (p = 0.814).

RESULTS: Diabetic individuals had significantly higher CPT (t(37) = 3.859, p < 0.0005) than non-diabetic individuals. In the diabetic group, multiple linear regression analysis revealed a conspicuous relationship between CPT and HbA 1c level (β = 0.501, t(21) = 3.139, p = 0.005): there was a 19-μm increase in CPT for each 1% increase in HbA 1c level. This relationship was not present in the non-diabetic group (β = - 0.068, t(23) = - 0.373, p = 0.712).

CONCLUSIONS: SS-OCT is the only way to measure macular thickness in vivo. Diabetic individuals en bloc had higher CPT compared with non-diabetic individuals. Moreover, in the diabetic group, HbA 1c level significantly predicted CPT. Our results suggest that, in diabetes, sub-clinical thickening may occur at the fovea before cystoid macular oedema becomes clinically evident. This could provide diabetic individuals with an early warning of disease progression and motivate them to improve control of their diabetes, with a view to avoiding the need of intra-vitreal injections with their attendant risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-641
Number of pages9
JournalGraefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology
Early online date8 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • foveal thickness, sub-clinical thickening, dibetic cystoid macular oedema
  • glycated haemoglobin, swept-source optical coherence tomography
  • Diabetic cystoid macular oedema
  • Sub-clinical thickening
  • Swept-source optical coherence tomography
  • Foveal thickness
  • Glycated haemoglobin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Ophthalmology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sub-clinical thickening of the fovea in diabetes and its relationship to glycaemic control: a study using swept-source optical coherence tomography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this