Diabetes patients urged to get their eyes tested this Diabetes Week

10 June 16

written by:

Heather Fanning

(more articles)

A nationwide survey reveals that over 50 percent of respondents had sight complications linked to their diabetes.

The survey was carried out by healthcare marketing communications agency Onyx Health.  Results revealed that even with the real risk of diabetic retinopathy and other sight problems, 17 percent of diabetes patients hadn’t had an eye test for over a year. This was despite 40 percent of all respondents being very, or extremely, concerned about their eye health.

So what action would diabetes patients take if their eye sight worsened? Just under half would go to an optician, with GPs and hospital ophthalmologists ranking in second and third place.

Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they would be willing to pay for a new and proven treatment for diabetes related sight conditions, whilst 40 percent would prefer to wait until a treatment became available on the NHS.

Two in five patients revealed they were receiving treatments for diabetic retinopathy - normally either laser eye surgery or invasive injections into the eye. Surgery is also carried out in severe cases to clear blood, repair detached retinas and remove scar tissue.

Eye research into the condition is being carried out by the UK’s main eye research charity, Fight for Sight. Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research, at the charity said: “Diabetes is a growing concern and with the numbers expected to rise this unfortunately means more cases of diabetic retinopathy. We’re investing £1.2m into a number of different projects across the country, which will help to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the condition and develop new treatments.”

Several potential therapies are being developed to prevent and treat the complications caused by diabetic retinopathy, including a type of light therapy that aims to reduce leakage of fluid in the central retina.

When asked which treatment patients most prefer, the popular choice, for those who answered, was light therapy using a sleep mask. Such as the Noctura 400 sleep mask, which uses light technology to prevent or treat retinopathy at any stage of its development. 

CE marked and recently launched for sale at less than £3 per day, the mask could provide a viable early-stage therapy, or adjunct to established treatments, for the 47 percent of UK diabetes patients willing to pay to save their sight.

A number of patients with diabetic retinopathy have been using the Noctura 400 mask for over a year. One such patient is Sue Wales from Farnham, in Surrey. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 32 years, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at a routine eye screening four years ago. “I received over a dozen sessions of laser therapy at the eye hospital, but as a keen gardener, new bleeds kept on occurring every month whenever I did something strenuous like digging,” explains Sue.

In October 2014, Sue started to use the Noctura 400 sleep mask, as one of the first pilot patients, and found an improvement immediately. In the first 6 months of wearing the mask every night she did not have a single retinal bleed.  At her last eye check-up in January 2016, it was confirmed that for the first time in over two years, both her retinas were stable once again, with no signs of any small bleeds at all.

“I have been able to maintain my eyesight. I still have my driving licence, work full time and am enjoying a full and active life without the fear of my eyesight getting worse. I would recommend anyone with retinal damage to take action before it’s too late,” comments Sue.

This advice may prove to be a wake-up call for the 13 percent of survey respondents who said they were either slightly or not at all concerned about their eye health. 

Between Sunday 12 June and Saturday 18 June, the focus will be on diabetes, and its impact on sight should not be overlooked. Now is the time for patients to visit their optician, GP or ophthalmologist to discover the ways that sight-threatening retinopathy can be prevented and treated.