Visually impaired woman urges people with diabetes to get retinal screenings

joanna retinal screenings

Joanna Penn from Lowestoft is urging those with diabetes to attend retinal screenings. - Credit: Royal National Institute of Blind People

A woman who is severely visually impaired and suffers from diabetes is urging others with diabetes to get retinal screenings.

It comes as the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is highlighting the importance of people with diabetes attending retinal screening appointments as part of Diabetes Week which will take place this year from June 14-20.

Joanna Penn, from Lowestoft, has an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002 at the age of 18 and started having laser treatment due to the severity of her eye condition in 2009.

However, Joanna has now stopped this treatment as she has received the maximum amount of laser possible.


Joanna says retinal screening is key to identifying early onset problems of diabetic retinopathy. - Credit: Royal National Institute of Blind People

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Joanna said: “I have diabetic screening at hospital once a year.

"Unfortunately, my eye condition is at end stage and there’s nothing more that can be done to improve this.

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"Retinal screening is so important, especially in the early stages of an eye condition like mine, so I would really encourage people to attend their appointments.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, all routine retinal screening appointments for patients with diabetes were postponed. 

However, retinal screening services have now resumed in most areas, with safety measures in place, and patients are being advised to attend appointments.

People from South Asian, Black African, and African Caribbean backgrounds have a three to five times higher risk of type 2 diabetes compared with people from white British backgrounds.

RNIB Specialist Lead for Eye Health, Dr Louise Gow said: “The most important thing you can do to prevent sight loss due to diabetic retinopathy is to go to your retinal screening appointments and eye examinations.”

“If you haven’t heard from your local diabetic retinal screening service and you are overdue for an appointment and don’t have a new date for screening, or you are worried about changes to your vision, you should speak to your GP or diabetic nurse.

"Alternatively, you can attend for an NHS eye examination where an eye health check will be carried out. More information about preventing sight loss from diabetes can be found in a free booklet which can be downloaded from RNIB’s website.

“RNIB is here for anybody who is worried about their vision."

The charity's Sight Loss Advice Service can be contacted on 0303 123 9999.

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