Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, is encouraging persons with diabetes to get screened for eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, to prevent vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness, resulting from damage of the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissues at the back of the eye (retina).
The Minister made the appeal during the launch of the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme at the Greater Portmore Health Centre in St. Catherine on Wednesday, November 28.
Dr. Tufton emphasised that annual testing for the condition is key, as the earlier the disease is detected, and with better control of diabetes and treatment of the eyes, vision loss can be prevented.
He informed that approximately 30 per cent of persons with diabetes are likely to have some level of diabetic retinopathy. Further, that 20 per cent of diabetics have sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy.
“This is estimated to be about 18,000 Jamaicans [with diabetes] and these persons are likely to require laser therapy to prevent significant loss of sight,” he added.
Dr. Tufton acknowledged that not enough screening and treatment sites for diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases are available in the public sector.
He, therefore, welcomed the launch of the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening programme, in St. Catherine, which he said is going to fill a void.
Screening for the disease is currently being provided at the Hagley Park Health Centre in Kingston, and Isaac Barrant Centre of Excellence in St. Thomas, as part of a pilot project funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust of the United Kingdom.