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HomeminewsScreening to End Diabetic Retinopathy

Screening to End Diabetic Retinopathy

A screening program aimed at detecting the early signs of diabetic retinopathy (DR) could abolish diabetic blindness.

This was the message from experts at a briefing to some of Australia’s leading diabetes and eye health specialists.

Professor Paul Dodson, Director of the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening and Training Centre (HEDRSCE) from the U.K., said screening for diabetic retinopathy has a major impact on the reduction of blindness in the diabetic population.

“Since HEDRSCE began its screening program in 1993, the rate of diabetic blindness in the population we serve has reduced by about a third. Ophthalmologists in Iceland, where they’ve implemented a screening program that works closely with diabetes clinics, maintain they’ve abolished diabetes related blindness completely. This is a staggering achievement,” he said.

Prof. Dodson likened the screening program to those used to detect breast and cervical cancer.

“A hard copy image of the retina is taken and analysed by trained professionals. If a problem’s detected, the patient is alerted and referred to an eye clinic for treatment”.

CERA Managing Director Professor Jonathan Crowston said that to implement a similar program in Australia, the Government will need to be convinced of the social and financial cost benefits of early screening programs.

“Approximately 200,000 Victorians are living with diabetes and we estimate that more than 2,000 have sight threatening diabetic retinopathy,” Prof. Crowston said.

“The U.K. experience provides a compelling case for support. The program ticks all boxes – it’s cost effective, it tackles a common and growing problem, the test is easy and painless and treatment is widely available,” he added.

Prof. Crowston said CERA is already developing a service that would use retinal imaging to predict diabetic retinopathy and vascular disease through its Retinal Vascular Imaging Centre.

Diabetic retinopathy is the highest cause of blindness in working-age adults and affects 1.7 million Australians and a further 275 Australians develop the condition every day.