Emerging evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that vitamin D may play an important role in the development of diabetic retinopathy (DR), but individually published studies showed inconclusive results. The aim of this study was to quantitatively summarize the association between vitamin D and the risk of diabetic retinopathy. We conducted a systematic literature search of Pubmed, Medline, and EMBASE updated in September 2016 with the following keywords: “vitamin D” or “cholecalciferol” or “25-hydroxyvitamin D” or “25(OH)D” in combination with “diabetic retinopathy” or “DR”. Fifteen observational studies involving 17,664 subjects were included. In this meta-analysis, type 2 diabetes patients with vitamin D deficiency (serum 25(OH)D levels <20 ng/mL) experienced a significantly increased risk of DR (odds ratio (OR) = 2.03, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.07, 3.86), and an obvious decrease of 1.7 ng/mL (95% CI: −2.72, −0.66) in serum vitamin D was demonstrated in the patients with diabetic retinopathy. Sensitivity analysis showed that exclusion of any single study did not materially alter the overall combined effect. In conclusion, the evidence from this meta-analysis indicates an association between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy in type 2 diabetes patients.
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