Eye screening for Diabetic Retinopathy

Eye screening for Diabetic Retinopathy


 The group welcomed Tony Nicholls and Christel Jenkins on Thursday 25th September who explained the importance of the Screening for Diabetic Retinopathy Programme.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of sight loss in people of working age and may not cause symptoms until it is quite advanced, which is why screening is so important especially as all people with diabetes are at risk of getting diabetic retinopathy, and are at a greater risk if they have had diabetes for a long time, have poorly controlled diabetes or high blood pressure. It is caused when diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye that acts rather like a film in a camera, and progresses with time, but may not cause symptoms until it is quite advanced and close to affecting a person's sight.

Good control of blood sugar levels, regular blood pressure and diabetes checks, regular exercise and following diet advice, taking medication as prescribed and attending diabetic eye screening appointments along with regular eye checks at the opticians can help reduce the risk of sight threatening changes.  

The earliest changes are called background retinopathy with small changes developing on the blood vessels which are called microaneurysms and look like tiny red dots on the retina. Background retinopathy does not affect your sight and does not require treatment.

As time passes more severe changes may happen and eventually new blood vessels may develop on the retina which is called proliferative retinopathy and puts your sight at risk as the vessels may bleed or develop scar tissue. Changes to the central part of the retina called the macula may happen, which can cause some sight loss, and is referred to as maculopathy.

It is estimated that in England every year 4,200 people are at risk of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy and there are 1,280 new cases of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Screening, when digital photographs are taken of the retina, is an effective way of detecting diabetic retinopathy as early as possible, and although there may be no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, treatment is most effective when the disease is detected early. Everybody with type 1 and type 2 diabetes over the age of 12 are offered annual screening appointments unless already under the care of an ophthalmology specialist.

Laser treatment is a common, effective way of treating diabetic eye disease, although inhibitor drugs and operations are used in some cases.