Changing the regularity of eye screenings for people with type 1 diabetes deemed at risk of developing eye problems would lead to “better health outcomes”, a new study has said.
Currently, people with type 1 diabetes are supposed to have their eyes checked for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in adults with type 1 diabetes, on an annual basis at a routine appointment.
But researchers think the regularity of how often they are seen should depend on how high their risk is of developing retinopathy.
The new findings from this ongoing 30-year study have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and involved roughly 1,400 participants and 24,000 eye screening appointments.
The authors of the study also believe that adjusting the frequency of the appointments would lead to faster treatment and reduced long-term costs.
Dr Catherine Cowie, who oversees the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and its follow-up, the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications study at the National Institutes of Health, said: “The results could save money and time while getting better health outcomes – a win all around.
“The findings from this landmark type 1 diabetes study will inform a precision medicine approach, where treatment is tailored to the individual.”
If there’s evidence of mild retinopathy the authors recommend a screening should take place every three years; people should be monitored every six months if they have a moderate retinopathy; and severe cases should be seen every three months.
It has also been recommended that those who have higher blood sugar levels should been seen more regularly.
If the proposed eye screening appointments are adopted, the research team think it would result in earlier detection of advanced retinopathy.
Dr David Natha, the paper’s first author, said: “This new evidence-based screening schedule is based on taking photographs of the back of the eye, rather than physical examination with an ophthalmoscope.
“Retinal photography is a commonly used and widely available method to detect eye disease and is thought to be more accurate than only the physical exam in detecting diabetic eye disease. Further studies are needed to learn if the newly proposed screening strategy applies to type 2 diabetes.”