Research carried out at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, has concluded that it would be a safe and cost-effective strategy to screen people with type 2 diabetes who have not yet developed diabetic retinopathy, for the disease once every two years instead of annually.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina and, if not treated, can lead to blindness. In all but some cases diabetic retinopathy has a typically slow rate of progression and can take years to develop.
The research team developed a model that simulated the progression of retinopathy in type 2 diabetes and related screening, in order to predict the rates of retinopathy-related sight loss. The model used data from the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust in the South West of the UK and the research team generated comparative 15-year forecasts to assess the differences between current screening policies and those proposed by the findings of the study.
The study concluded that it is safe to screen type 2 diabetes patients who have not been diagnosed with retinopathy every two years rather than annually, because the research team found that the proportion of patients who develop retinopathy-related sight loss was no different between the two screening intervals.
Proposed savings for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, for which 3,537 of the patients it screens for retinopathy fell into the remit of this study, would be a reduction in costs from 1.83m Pound a year to 1.36m Pound. The study predicts savings of around 25 per cent based on standard assumptions of screening costs.
According to Diabetes United Kingdom (UK), some 2.8m people in the UK have diabetes and 10 per cent of them are diagnosed with retinopathy. The UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence introduced guidelines for annual screening, but admits that this frequency is arbitrary and has welcomed research to investigate appropriate intervals between screening appointments.
REHACARE.de; Source: The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry