Three quarters of a million people with diabetes in England are at risk of losing their sight because they are not being screened for diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is the primary cause of blindness in the UK’s working-age population.
Diabetes UK is calling for everyone aged 12 and over diagnosed with diabetes to have free retinal screening with a digital camera every year.
How does retinal screening help?
Retinal screening is used to spot signs of retinopathy, a condition that occurs when blood vessels in the retina of the eye become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly. This gets in the way of the light passing through to the retina and if left untreated can damage vision and ultimately cause blindness.
An appalling situation
“It is appalling that a third of people with diabetes in England are not getting free digital retinal screening every year," said Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy Services at Diabetes UK.
Screening could save sight of thousands
"If retinopathy is caught early and treated properly then blindness can be prevented in 90 per cent of cases, so the simple screening process really could save the sight of hundreds of thousands of people.
PCTs must reach out to eligible people
“Retinal screening services in England are patchy. Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) need to ensure they are reaching out to all eligible people to invite them for screening, and in turn people with diabetes must make every effort to get to these vital appointments. If they have problems attending they can talk to their healthcare team about what help and support is available.”
Diabetes UK's 'Your Vision' campaign
Diabetes UK works hard to raise awareness of the importance of retinal screening among people with diabetes. Last year we launched Your Vision, an awareness campaign supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Lilly. In addition, as Specsavers Opticians’ charity of the year, we are educating people about the importance of looking after their eyes.
Figures on retinal screening
Latest Government figures show that 762,673 people with diabetes aged 12 and over in England did not receive digital retinal screening in the year ending March 31 2008. The national average for people that did receive screening was 67.7 per cent. Almost 60 per cent of PCTs (94 out of 152) failed to meet their target of offering all people with diabetes the chance to be screened during this time.