Annual screening for diabetic retinopathy “not cost-effective”

Currently, patients in the UK with type 2 diabetes are screened once a year for diabetic retinopathy, a common complication in diabetes leading to damage to the eyes. Research carried out by the University of Exeter however, has found that it would be safe and cost-effective to screen diabetic patients once every two years instead.

Diabetic retinopathy, damage to the retina which can lead to blindness, is a result of the high blood sugar levels present in type 2 diabetes. The research, which was published in Diabetes Care, showed that diabetic retinopathy is slow to develop, often taking years to progress. Through forecasting diagnoses of diabetic eye disease for the next 15 years, the authors concluded that it would be safe to screen patients biennially and would save around 25% of costs.

Dr Daniel Chalk, lead of the study wrote that diabetic retinopathy “…typically develops at a very slow pace, and as a consequence we wanted to identify whether or not there was any merit in reducing the frequency of screening from annually to every two years… there was no perceivable difference in the effectiveness of screening annually or every two years…”

Diabetic retinopathy is not the only type of diabetic eye disease to affect patients with type 2 diabetes, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, Miss Susanne Althauser has advice for patients at risk of developing diabetic maculopathy, dry eyes or cataracts.

Do you think a proposal to reduce diabetic eye screening is wise? Join the debate on Facebook.

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
Loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
Damage to the central part of the retina with bleeding and leakage of blood components (exudates) Full medical glossary
Damage to the retina caused by diabetes Full medical glossary
A craving to eat non-food substances such as earth or coal. Full medical glossary
The light sensitive membrane that lines the back, inner surface of the eye and enables sight. Full medical glossary
Any disorder of the retina, the innermost layer of the eye. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary