Researchers develop algorithm to predict risk of blindness and amputation in people with diabetes

Researchers have developed an algorithm that can accurately predict the 10-year risk of blindness and amputation in people with diabetes, according to new research.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Nottingham, found that people with diabetes actually tend to overestimate their risk of complications, which can cause undue anxiety. Their algorithm is the first to predict the 10-year risk of blindness and amputation.
How was the study conducted?
The researchers analysed data from two large databases: the UK QResearch database and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Database. They then used a long list of variables to predict risk, including:
Diabetes type
Years since diagnosis
Smoking status
Blood pressure
They used their results from this analysis to create an algorithm, which was then applied to a web calculator. Users can provide the calculator with details about their diabetes, and the tool will predict the user’s risk of blindness and/or amputation within the next 10 years.
“We have developed and externally validated risk prediction equations to quantify the absolute risks of blindness and lower limb amputation over 10 years in men and women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” the researchers wrote. “To our knowledge, these are the first tools for predicting the 10-year risk of both blindness and amputation, two of the complications that most concern patients with diabetes and affect quality of life.”
The calculator is available here.
How might these findings affect diabetes treatment?
The researchers believe that the algorithm and calculator could inform diabetes management decisions, and that a more realistic interpretation of blindness and amputation risks could reduce incidences of anxiety and depression.
The researchers wrote: “[M]ore accurate individualised information on the risk of complications may help patients to make more informed decisions about the balance of risks and benefits of treatment options reflecting their own values and choices. Overestimation of the risk of complications might lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, which could negatively affect quality of life. This is especially important as patients with diabetes are more likely than the general population experience anxiety and depression.
“For clinicians and the health service, more accurate methods for stratifying patients according to their absolute risk of complications could enable screening programmes to be tailored to an individual’s level of risk and support the more rational use of scarce resources.”
The findings are published in the BMJ.

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