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  1. ITV Report

Blindness from diabetes halves in Wales, new research reveals

The number of people in Wales diagnosed as blind or living with sight loss because of diabetes has almost halved since the introduction of a new national screening programme in 2003, according to new research.

A doctor looks at the results of an eye exam Credit: PA

The research, conducted by the diabetic research unit at Swansea University and published in the British Medical Journal shows:

  • There were 339 fewer new certifications for all levels of sight loss from any cause combined in 2014-15, compared with 2007-08;
  • There were 22 fewer people with known diabetes with sight loss due specifically to their diabetes. There was a 49% fall in new certifications for severe sight impairment, from 31.3 to 15.8 per 100,000 people;
  • During this observation period, 52,229 (40%) more people were diagnosed with diabetes in Wales.

The research shows us that earlier diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy since the introduction of screening has played a significant role, alongside other measures, such as improved diabetes management with timely onward referral and newer treatments.

– Rebecca Evans AM, HEALTH MINISTER

It is very rewarding indeed to see, after many years of dedicated research to determine the best method of screening for the presence of diabetic eye disease, that the main objective of reducing the number of new certifications for severe sight loss (blindness) by almost half has been achieved.

Clearly, early detection and improved treatment for sight threatening diabetic retinopathy has been an essential element in this success, reaffirming the need for all persons with diabetes - from the age of 12 years onwards - to have regular screening.

– Prof David Owens, Diabetes Research Unit Cymru at Swansea University