Role of Screening for Diabetic Eye Disease in the UK
Screening has been in place across the UK for many years now. In many ways diabetic eye disease is a condition that is ideally suited to screening. This means that we understand the natural history of diabetic eye disease (DED) very well from studies carried out in the early 1970′s and 80′s. We also know a lot about the impact of treatment on the natural history of DED – in many cases a tremendous beneficial impact can be seen with early treatment of DED – especially when the condition reaches certain criteria.
At present in most parts of the country a photographic screening method is employed with private companies and NHS organisations running various schemes. All patients who are registered to be diabetic whether type I or Type II will be called for an annual photographic examination of their Retina. The photographs may be taken in mobile units or fixed premises such as Optometry or GP practices. These photographs are then graded by professional graders whose work is also closely monitored by clinical staff to ensure a high degree of accuracy of the screening service is present.
Patients who reach very carefully defined criteria for DED on the grading will be referred for full clinical evaluation by an Ophthalmologist trained in Retinal disorders. Clinical evaluation will then allow a treatment plan to be formulated for the individual patient. In many cases it can be a case of monitoring a patients condition before eventually being discharged back to the screening service. In other cases a recommendation for treatment may be made even on the first evaluation by the Ophthalmologist. The aim as always is to help minimise the impact of DED on the patients eyesight. Many patients who do undergo treatment e.g LASER will remain under the care of the hospital eye service for quite some time.
The DED screening programmes have been a huge success in helping to reduce the burden of sight loss from this condition and we at Bettersight fully support these schemes and encourage all patients who are NOT actively being monitored for DED to continue their attendance to the screening programme alongside any other eye-care they may be receiving.
For those patients who are diabetic and are under the care of a hospital eye specialist – please ask your surgeon whether they are conducting a diabetic eye examination as well – if not then we suggest you maintain contact with your local screening programme.