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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says updated guidance for screening people at risk of diabetic eye disease will help to reduce the number of preventable cases of blindness.

“More than 257,000 people in New Zealand live with diabetes, and around a quarter will develop some form of diabetic eye disease,” says Dr Coleman.

“Diabetics can reduce their risk of developing diabetic eye disease by managing their diabetes and having regular eye checks which can help to detect the disease in its early stages.

“This updated guidance aims to reduce variation in services across the country and it also provides a national benchmark.

“One of the key guidance recommendations focuses on getting high quality screening services out into the community through optometrists, with oversight from ophthalmologists.

“This model is already working successfully in Wellington, Hutt and Wairarapa, and is freeing up specialists’ time, allowing ophthalmologists to focus on treatment rather than screening and monitoring.”

The updated guidance recommends that people with diabetes are screened at least every two to three years, and that pregnant women with diabetes have their eyes checked early in their pregnancy.

The guidance was developed after extensive consultation with the sector. The Ministry of Health will work with DHBs to implement the guidance which is accompanied by a range of resources for the public, general practice teams and midwives.

The updated Diabetic Retinal Screening, Grading, Monitoring and Referral Guidance is available on the Ministry of Health’s website, www.health.govt.nz