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More than 70,000 diabetic patients have been screened by Diabetic RetinaScreen to date

More than 70,000 diabetic patients have had their eyes screened under the National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme, with over 700 new registrations to the programme per month, delegates at the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) Annual Conference in Westport, Co Mayo, heard.

The three-day meeting was attended by over 170 delegates from the international and national ophthalmic community and featured the latest developments in treatment and research for eye diseases and delivery of ophthalmic care in Ireland.

Mr David Keegan, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon and Clinical Director of Diabetic RetinaScreen, reported that the uptake for Diabetic RetinaScreen is increasing month-on-month, with on average between 700 and 1,000 new names being added to the register monthly.

The programme offers free, regular screening and treatment of diabetic retinopathy to people with diabetes aged 12 and over and was commenced on a phased basis in 2013. In the first round of screening, more than 70,000 people with diabetes have been screened in Ireland in over 100 locations.

To date, 153,000 are registered with Diabetic RetinaScreen, all of whom have received their letter of invitation to be screened.

Commenting on the importance of early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, Mr Keegan said: “Diabetic retinopathy may not have any symptoms or may not affect sight in the early stages. The national screening programme will reduce sight loss among people with diabetes as a result of early detection and effective treatment and we urge people to make their appointment for screening when they receive their letter of invitation.”

Five people go blind in Ireland every week, equating to 260 people per annum. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the five main causes of sight loss in Ireland and the leading cause of blindness among the working-age population. This is despite the fact that 70-to-75 per cent of blindness is preventable with early diagnosis and treatment.

“Continued investment in cost-effective interventions such as the Diabetic RetinaScreen programme is essential to ensure eye diseases that are treatable are detected early and unnecessary sight loss prevented. Since the introduction of the Diabetic RetinaScreen programme in the UK, this eye disease is no longer the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population in England,” Mr Keegan concluded.

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