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Eye screening linked to fall in sight loss in people with diabetes

2:30pm Thursday 27th July 2017 content supplied byNHS Choices

Overall, the number of sight loss certifications due to diabetic retinopathy fell by 22 over this period, after an initial increase in 2008. In detail:

  • The number of new certifications for SI and SSI combined caused by diabetic retinopathy increased from 108 in 2007-8 to 140 in 2008-9.
  • The number then fell year on year from 2008-9 to 2014-15 to a total of 86, a 20.4% reduction from the original number of 108.
  • During the same eight-year period (2007-8 to 2014-15), the number of people with diabetes increased by 52,229, from 131,119 to 183,348.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded: "Findings from this analysis provide positive and useful epidemiological information to assist in the future monitoring of diabetic eye disease in order to provide the basis for assessing the benefit or otherwise of changes in the management of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy/maculopathy."

They added that the analysis "highlights the positive benefits of introducing a community-based screening programme for the early detection of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy".


The results indicate that since the introduction of the screening programme for diabetic retinopathy in Wales, the total number and rate of new certifications of sight impairment and severe sight impairment have decreased. This is despite an increase in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes.

The study shows a promising trend and highlights the possible benefit of such screening. However, there are some important considerations:

  • Reporting of visual loss currently requires a consultant ophthalmologist to complete a Certificate of Vision Impairment, and this isn't compulsory.
  • Patients may be reluctant to be registered as visually impaired/blind, so true numbers and rates might be underestimated.
  • Screening isn't the only thing that could have led to the decrease in certifications. It may also have been due to increased awareness of diabetes, improved referrals to specialists and better overall diabetes management, rather than the screening.

Everyone with diabetes aged 12 or over should be invited to have their eyes screened once a year.

You should receive a letter from your local Diabetic Eye Screening Service inviting you to attend an appointment. The letter will include a leaflet about diabetic eye screening.

Contact your local screening service or your GP if you haven't received a letter and your appointment is overdue.


"The proportion of diabetics who go blind or suffer sight loss has almost halved since a new national retinopathy screening programme started in 2007," BBC News reports.

Links to Headlines

Diabetic sight loss cut by screening, research shows. BBC News, July 26 2017

Links to Science

Thomas RL, Luzio SD, North RV, et al. Retrospective analysis of newly recorded certifications of visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy in Wales during 2007-2015. BMJ Open. Published online July 24 2017

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