Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is an imaging technique that uses light waves to capture a 3D image of the back of the eye, down to the cellular level. It takes only 20 seconds and is a painless, quick and a much more accurate way of identifying and monitoring those with diabetic eye disease at the back of the eye that is not yet at a stage requiring treatment.
Introducing these advanced OCT scanners into the community will reduce the burden on specialist hospital eye services, reducing up to 10,000 unnecessary outpatient appointments from hospitals and will make sure patients can be seen in familiar, local settings. It is anticipated that this enhancement to a service patients know and trust, will encourage people to continue attending when invited and make sure all Londoners diabetes have local access to the same advanced 3D eye scans to help manage their eye health.
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes that, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can cause sight loss. Until recently, it was the leading cause of blindness in the working age population. For 15 years, NHS England has offered a national diabetic eye screening program to people aged 12 and over. This is typically done at screening clinics in the community by taking 2D photos of each eye and looking for signs of the condition. Patients with early signs of changes due to diabetes at the back of the eye were then referred onto specialist hospital eye services where they would have a more detailed OCT scan. However these 2D images do not provide the same detail of information as that obtained by an OCT scan often leading to referral at a stage when no treatment is required. These patients only require monitoring via an OCT scan every six months which would be better for the patient if this could be carried out locally rather than in a hospital setting. This would free up more time for the ophthalmologists at the hospital sites to treat the patients that require treatment rather than see those that just require monitoring.
Dr Kathie Binyish, Head of Screening for NHS (London) said,
“Diabetic retinopathy is a very serious complication of diabetes that can lead to total blindness, if left untreated. Thankfully, if caught early it is easily treated. Moving OCT scanners into local screening sites will make sure people are able to simply and conveniently have their eyes checked and can quickly be identified if they need further treatment. Rolling this out across London will be a major success in helping Londoners with diabetes to maintain the health of their eyes.”
What is diabetic retinopathy/ maculopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of sight loss among people of working age. It occurs when diabetes affects the blood supply at the back of the eye, causing abnormal vessels to grow on the retina. These can bleed and damage the eye leading to blindness. When the blood vessels in the central area of the retina (the macula) are affected, it’s known as diabetic maculopathy. When these blood vessels are damaged they become leaky and cause swelling of the back of the eye which can be detected easily by an OCT scan. When swelling occurs or abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina, this can be treated by an ophthalmologist to prevent sight loss.
People with diabetes should also see their optician every two years for a regular eye test. Diabetic eye screening is specifically for diabetic retinopathy and can’t be relied upon for other conditions.
For further information, contact the NHS England (London Region) media team on London.firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3182 4984 and follow NHS England on Twitter @NHSEnglandLDN