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People with diabetes urged to participate in national retinal screening programme

12 November 2016

Ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14 November figures from a Health Research Board-funded study by researchers at University College Cork suggest that between 2004 and 2013, on average two people per month went blind from diabetic retinopathy.

The data, recently published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, is the first in Ireland to look at trends in diabetes-related blindness among Irish adults aged 18-69 years in the ten-year period 2004-2013. It found that the rates of diabetic retinopathy didn’t change significantly (0.68 in 2004 to 0.52 per 100,000 population in 2013). However the study showed that the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes did increase from 2.1% in 2004 to 3.6% to 2013.

‘The increase in the prevalence of diabetes does have public health implications’, according to, Marsha Tracey from University College Cork, the lead author of the paper.

‘Diabetes can lead to vision loss. And it is unfortunate that some people do not have any symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage and sight cannot be restored once lost. Research has shown that people with diabetes who regularly attend retinal screening programmes have improved long term visual outcomes. So it is really important that people with diabetes have regular eye checks for the early signs of diabetes damage’

In 2013, a national diabetic retinopathy screening programme (RetinaScreen) was introduced, aimed at preventing sight loss among people with diabetes.
 
Dr Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager of Diabetes Ireland said: 

‘Diabetic retinopathy can be avoidable with good diabetes control, regular diabetes reviews and regular eye examinations. RetinaScreen is free and available to anyone with diabetes over the age of 12 so we urge all people to register for and to attend RetinaScreen to protect their sight’

Some people with diabetes either do not attend or are unlikely to attend retinal screening. Hence they are at increased risk of developing vision loss.

Marsha Tracey from University College Cork concluded: ‘There is a need for further research to try to better understand why at-risk people do not attend retinal screening'.

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