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27,000 people with diabetes in Wales at risk of blindness

More than 27,000 people with diabetes in Wales are at increased risk of blindness because they have not received retinal screening, an essential annual check which tests for eye disease diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the country’s working-age population, and is just one complication that people with diabetes in Wales could be at risk of because they are missing out on a wide range of health checks and specialist services.

Retinal screening is one of a checklist of15 healthcare essentials(PDF, 65KB), to help people with diabetes understand what services they should get to help them manage their condition.

Essential annual checks

Recent figures show that a significant number of the 153,000 people now diagnosed with diabetes in Wales are also not receiving other essential annual checks.

Nearly a quarter (23.77 per cent) have not received a check for diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy) and one in six (16.85 per cent) have not had a foot check. Diabetes causes 100 amputations a week, of which around 80 per cent are potentially preventable.

Diabetes UK Cymru is calling on people with diabetes to let them know about the gaps in care where they live by filling in an online survey at

Devastating complications

Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said, "Diabetes is a serious condition which can lead to devastating long-term complications including blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

"The tragedy is that, for example, 90 per cent of cases of sight loss could have been avoided if they had been identified early enough and treated appropriately.

"The 15 healthcare essentials will help ensure people with diabetes are getting the care they need, and if they’re not, Diabetes UK wants people to use the checklist and ask for the standards of care that have been recommended by expert bodies and patients across the UK.

“With the right care and education, there is no reason why people with diabetes shouldn’t live long and healthy lives.”

The 15 healthcare essentialsare part of Diabetes UK’s Diabetes Watch campaign, a programme to monitor and highlight standards of diabetes care across the UK, and to support people with diabetes to get access to the right standards of care.

We want people to use the checklist and, if there are any gaps in care, raise the issue with their healthcare team.

These 15 measures may not all be appropriate for children. Children will generally have more frequent HbA1c measurements and do not generally have formal screening for complications (eg blood pressure, blood fats, eyes feet and kidneys) until they are 12. However, their general health will be monitored by their healthcare team at each appointment.

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