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Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in an Aboriginal Australian population: results from the Katherine Region Diabetic Retinopathy Study (KRDRS). Report no. 1


Dr Nandor Jaross, Department of Public Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email:


Background: The Katherine Region Diabetic Retinopathy Study (KRDRS) was carried out in the Lower Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia between 1993 and 1996 as part of the Northern Territory Eye Health Program. It investigated diabetic eye conditions and its determinants in the Aboriginal Australian population of the region.

Methods: The study provided cross-sectional data about diabetic retinopathy in the Aboriginal diabetic population of the Katherine region in 1993 and in 1996. A total of 234 people with diabetes were examined in 1993 and 243 in 1996.

Results: The prevalence of retinopathy was 18% in 1993 and 21% in 1996. The respective findings for maculopathy were 13% and 10%, for clinically significant macula oedema 8% and 6%, for proliferative stage subject retinopathy 0.9 and 1.3% and for vision-threatening retinopathy 8.5% and 6.7%. In 1993 the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 18% in the four major centres compared with 16% in the smaller communities. The findings for 1996 were 25% and 13%, respectively. In 1993 the prevalence of vision-threatening retinopathy was 8% in major centres compared with 7% in other communities. The findings for 1996 were 7% and 8%, respectively. Sex was not significantly related to the prevalence of retinopathy.

Conclusion: Diabetic retinopathy is as much a problem in Aboriginal communities as in the wider Australian population but presents a unique set of challenges for health services and for clinicians.