A new screening programme for diabetic retinopathy discovered that one in five diabetes patients had signs of the complication.
The study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology and conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that the problem was particularly prevalent in ethnic minorities.
The authors claimed that the study illustrates the importance of diabetic retinopathy screenings. The authors stated that “The rate of self-reported dilated eye care use in the past year was low for the overall sample (32.2 per cent), suggesting that DR [diabetic retinopathy] screening in these settings could fulfil a critical role for patients with diabetes not routinely accessing annual dilated eye examination care.”
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood glucose levels over an extended period of time weakening and damaging the small blood vessels within the retina.
Although the study specifically addresses the issue in the United States, its findings have a global relevance. In England alone, 1,280 new cases of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy are reported each year, according to the NHS, while a further 4,200 people are thought to be at risk of retinopathy-related vision loss.
The NHS invites everyone with diabetes over the age of 11 to be screened for diabetic retinopathy once a year. The test consists of examining the back of the eyes and photographing the retina. It can detect diabetic retinopathy before the condition causes any changes to the patient’s vision.

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