Purpose: To identify changes in retinal function and structure in persons with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), including the effects of panretinal photocoagulation (PRP).
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Participants: Thirty adults who underwent PRP for PDR, 15 adults with untreated PDR, and 15 age-matched controls.
Methods: Contrast sensitivity, frequency doubling perimetry (FDP), Humphrey visual fields, photostress recovery, and dark adaptation were assessed. Fundus photography and macular spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD OCT) were performed. To quantify retinal layer thicknesses, SD OCT scans were segmented semiautomatically.
Main Outcome Measures: Visual function measures were compared among patients with PDR and PRP, untreated patients with PDR, and controls. Mean retinal layer thicknesses were compared between groups. Correlation analyses were performed to evaluate associations between visual function measures and retinal layer thicknesses.
Results: A significant reduction of FDP mean deviation (MD) was exhibited in PRP-treated patients with PDR (MD ± standard deviation, −8.20±5.76 dB; P < 0.0001) and untreated patients (−5.48±4.48 dB; P < 0.0001) relative to controls (1.07±2.50 dB). Reduced log contrast sensitivity compared with controls (1.80±0.14) also was observed in both PRP-treated patients (1.42±0.17; P < 0.0001) and untreated patients (1.56±0.20; P = 0.001) with PDR. Compared with controls, patients treated with PRP demonstrated increased photostress recovery time (151.02±104.43 vs. 70.64±47.14 seconds; P = 0.001) and dark adaptation speed (12.80±5.15 vs. 9.74±2.56 minutes; P = 0.022). Patients who underwent PRP had diffusely thickened nerve fiber layers (P = 0.024) and diffusely thinned retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layers (P = 0.009) versus controls. Untreated patients with PDR also had diffusely thinned RPE layers (P = 0.031) compared with controls.
Conclusions: Patients with untreated PDR exhibited inner retinal dysfunction, as evidenced by reduced contrast sensitivity and FDP performance, accompanied by alterations in inner and outer retinal structure. Patients who underwent PRP had more profound changes in outer retinal structure and function. Distinguishing the effects of PDR and PRP may guide the development of restorative vision therapies for patients with advanced diabetic retinopathy.