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Diabetes Screening Initiatives Applauded

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Initiative To Help Screen New Zealanders For Diabetes Applauded By Eye Specialists

As a result of the announcement of the HFA's increase in funding for screening diabetes, eye diseases that can result from being diabetic will be detected before blindness sets in.

Conditions like diabetic retinopathy, if left untreated will lead to blindness.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB) and the New Zealand Society for the Prevention Blindness (NZSPB) welcome the Health Funding Authority initiative which will result in improved screening for diabetes related eye disease, the most common cause of vision loss amongst working age New Zealanders.

"Loss of sight through diabetes is preventable," says Chief Executive for the RNZFB, Jane Holden. "Unfortunately diabetic retinopathy has no early symptoms so someone can be suffering from it and not be aware they have it. However, regular eye checks will soon reveal the problem which can then be treated before sight is lost."

Nearly five per cent of the New Zealand population suffers from diabetes, yet many are unaware they have the disease. This means the danger of them developing serious sight loss is enormous says president of the NZSPB, Gillian Clover. "One in ten diabetes sufferers are at risk of sight loss and one in fifty may lose their sight completely."

Maori and Pacific Island people have a higher incidence of diabetes than any other ethnic group and one in ten of those who have the disease will lose their sight unless the condition is detected and treated in good time.

"The offer of free annual visits to GP's for those with diabetes will mean that the patient's ongoing condition will be checked more frequently. That also means that GP's will be regularly ensuring that their patients will be referred for an eye check for any signs of diabetic retinopathy."

"As a result of this announcement more clinics for screening for diabetes related eye disease would be available over the next 12 months," says Gillian Clover. "Eye specialists provide treatment for diabetic retinopathy on an outpatient basis"

She also said that diabetes sufferers should attend the screening clinics offered by eye specialists throughout New Zealand.

Jane Holden encourages people to take care of their eyes. "We believe that preventing sight loss is sensible and preferable as it allows us to focus on those people whose sight loss is not avoidable."

GP's will advise patients who have any enquiries on how to get on to a diabetic screening programme.

ENDS

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