Hospital keep eye on diabetes screening
BLINDNESS could be prevented for people in Suffolk who suffer from diabetes - thanks to a new mobile eye screening service.The £60,000 project by Suffolk West Primary Care Trust uses a state-of-the-art digital camera that takes photographs of the retina, the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye.
By Tracey Sparling
BLINDNESS could be prevented for people in Suffolk who suffer from diabetes - thanks to a new mobile eye screening service.
The £60,000 project by Suffolk West Primary Care Trust uses a state-of-the-art digital camera that takes photographs of the retina, the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye.
These images are looked at to determine whether there are any changes to the retina as a result of diabetes.
A new team of screeners will take the camera around West Suffolk so that the 6,000 adults with diabetes registered at the area's 30 GP practices can benefit from an annual eye check.
Diabetes is the single biggest cause of preventable blindness in the working age population of the UK and people with the condition are recommended to have their eyes screened every year.
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A disease called retinopathy, which causes haemorrhaging at the back of the eye, can result in blindness but can be prevented, and also treated successfully, if people with diabetes are screened regularly.
Dr John Clark, consultant diabetologist at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, said: "The purchase of a digital eye camera is a significant step forward in the care of patients with diabetes.
"Currently, some people with diabetes have an annual eye check at the West Suffolk Hospital, some go to their GP and others to high street opticians. However, specialist digital cameras, which have only been available for the past four to five years, are the gold standard of eye checks for retinopathy."
Andrew Ramsay, a consultant ophthalmologist appointed by West Suffolk Hospital to oversee the service, estimated that between 30 and 50 people with diabetes in West Suffolk go blind every year as a result of retinopathy.
"The real tragedy is that I see people with advanced retinopathy who have never been screened before," he said. "If we can get to them early enough, there is a good chance that we can save their sight."
The sophisticated digital camera means that patients will be reviewed and treated on the same day.
The West Suffolk mobile eye screening service will be the first of its kind in Suffolk although there are already a few similar services in other rural areas of the UK, including Norfolk.
Any patients unable to attend the screening session at their GPs practice will be given an opportunity to go to another surgery locally.