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Diabetics Urged to Take Up ‘Sight-Saving’ Tests

16 July 2012

More people are being urged to attend vital eye exams after health bosses revealed that one in four diabetics aged over 12 are missing out on sight-saving appointments.

Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges currently facing the UK, and the number of new cases is predicted to rise dramatically over the next few years due to obesity rates and a growing ageing population, which are closely linked to the disease.

In Derbyshire the number of cases of diabetes in people aged over 12 has shot up – from around 21,000 in 2000 to 50,000 in 2012. This is the equivalent of 15 per cent of the county’s population.

Now NHS Derbyshire County is calling on all sufferers to take up their annual eye screening care check to detect diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels in the eye – which is the most common cause of blindness in people of working age.

Linda Syson-Nibbs, nurse consultant public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “Although the number of people with diabetes taking advantage of their annual eye screening test is increasing in Derbyshire, at 76 per cent this year, one in four are still at risk of blindness because they fail to have the exam. So we’d urge all diabetic patients to have the test, even if their disease is well controlled, as symptoms of eye disease may not show until they are close to affecting a person’s sight.”

Mr HC Chen, consultant ophthalmologist and clinical lead for Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: “Thousands of patients have been screened for diabetic eye disease since the programme first begun in Derbyshire in 2006, many of whom would now have lost their sight if they had not had appropriate treatment. We’d urge all patients to act on their screening invitation as the process is painless, takes about 30 minutes and if sight-threatening disease is detected, appropriate treatment can then be planned.”

During the test photos of the back of the eye are taken without the camera coming into contact with the eyes. Each image is then carefully examined by the screening specialist for early signs of disease. Any patient found to be at risk of the disease is referred to their consultant ophthalmologist to consider if treatment is needed.

A special award ceremony, recognising the quality of eye screening in Derby and Derbyshire was held at the Derbyshire Hotel in South Normanton on Thursday, July 5.

The diabetic eye screening programme was first introduced in Derbyshire in September 2006. Last year, 38,000 people over the age of 12 attended their eye tests out of a potential 50,000. Figures published by Diabetes UK estimate that the number of new cases of blindness in England could be reduced by 80 per cent as a result of the test – from an estimated 1,280 to 256, or more than 1,000 individuals a year.

Anyone wishing to find out more about diabetic eye screening in Derbyshire can contact Lorraine Tunbridge on 01629 533833. Appointments for eye screening be made through the eye screening appointment booking team on 01332 254977.

Further information about diabetic eye screening can be found at the National Diabetic Eye Screening website at http://diabeticeye.screening.nhs.uk/.