On World Diabetes Day, the Welsh Government has launched a new campaign to encourage people with diabetes to take extra care of their eye health.
All 165,000 eligible people over the age of 12 in Wales with diabetes will be contacted to urge them to take up their annual invitation to their free retinopathy screening appointment.
Regular retinal screening is important, as sight-threatening changes in the eye caused by diabetes – known as ‘diabetic retinopathy’ – are often without symptoms. Screening can pick up these changes at a stage where treatment may prevent sight loss.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the campaign at Diabetic Eye Screening Wales’ headquarters in Treforest, Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, said:
“Loss of sight can be devastating, which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure people have all the information and support they need to take care of their eyesight.
“People living with diabetes are at particular risk of sight loss – but this complication is avoidable. If you have diabetes and are over 12 you should be having your eyes screened for retinopathy by attending your free Diabetic Eye Screening Wales appointment. The screening looks for specific changes in the eye that cause blindness, and it is effective at reducing your risk of sight loss.”
Andrew Crowder, Head of Programme for Diabetic Eye Screening Wales, Public Health Wales and Diabetes UK Clinical Champion, said:
“By regularly attending for your retinopathy screening with Diabetic Eye Screening Wales, we can help keep your sight safe. Our service is specially designed to detect retinopathy at a very early stage – before you know you have it and when treatment is still very effective.
“We screen all over Wales, so there will be clinics running near to where you live. But if we do offer an invitation that doesn’t suit you, just contact us and we’ll find something else that does. The most important thing is that you come along and you’ll leave knowing that you’ve done the right thing to protect your precious sight.”
Diabetes UK Cymru’s Director Dai Williams said:
“Fewer than half of people with diabetes realise that it can cause blindness, which is a real worry. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication that can affect anyone living with the condition, who will also be at higher risk of developing other eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Also, when problems begin there often won’t be any symptoms, which means people might leave treatment too late, when permanent damage has already happened.
“This is why we’re supporting this campaign to help people control their condition and make sure people living with diabetes in Wales are going to their regular eye screening appointments as well as their usual eye tests. Experts can then identify any problems and get them treated as soon as possible. Making sure you are getting the treatment you need could be the difference between a person with diabetes losing their sight or saving it.”