Sight threat for Scots

How diabetic retinopathy affects vision.

How diabetic retinopathy affects vision.

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Rocketing rates of diabetes are endangering the sight of thousands of Scots, the charity RNIB Scotland is warning on World Diabetes Day today (Monday, November 14).

It is urging people with the condition to make appointments for regular eye examinations and to keep retinopathy screening appointments. These can detect the first signs of sight-threatening conditions when treatment may still arrest damage and prevent sight loss.

Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, occurs when tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye become blocked and leak, resulting in patchy vision loss across the whole field of sight. It is one of the most common causes of blindness in people of working age in Scotland.

Campbell Chalmers, director of RNIB Scotland, said: “Diabetic retinopathy is fast emerging as Scotland’s ticking time-bomb as far as sight is concerned. It is vitally important that everyone with diabetes - whether type 1 or type 2 - has their eyes checked annually as part of their diabetes care to pick up any early indications of problems. To ignore this is to risk permanent damage to your sight.

“That’s why we have to get this vital message out to every section of our community. Some ethnic minority communities, for instance, are more vulnerable to diabetes. Yet they are often least aware of eye-health messages and less likely to attend appointments, as are people generally in Scotland’s most impoverished areas. Everyone over the age of 12 with diabetes can attend a free retinal screening every year by the national screening programme, and it is very important that people don’t miss out on these.

“Good diabetic control can also significantly lower the risk. Controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, giving up smoking, keeping fit and maintaining a healthy weight are all factors which reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy.”

Since its inception, the Scottish Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme has increased the proportion of diabetic patients it screens year on year, going from 71 per cent in 2008 to nearly 85 per cent across Scotland. This means more people living with diabetes have received sight saving management through this quality assured service.

Kirsteen Murray, national director at Diabetes Scotland, said: “Diabetes is a serious condition which can lead to life-limiting complications, including sight loss, if not managed well. People must be supported to live well with their diabetes. That includes receiving all the essential diabetes health checks, including retinopathy screening, from their healthcare team and getting access to structured diabetes education to learn to self-manage the condition every day.”

For any questions about living with diabetes or potential complications, contact Diabetes Scotland’s Helpline on 0141 212 8710 or email helpline.scotland@diabetes.org.uk