Diabetic Retinopathy - Theresa's Story

We were asked to see a lady who lived in her own home in Newcastle, Co. Down. Her name was Theresa and she had been living with Diabetes for over 20 years. She wasn't having any problems with her eyes but had recently broken her reading glasses. Her long distance vision was perfect without spectacles in fact she said she could see a "flea on Slieve Donard."

She hadn't had her eyes tested in years, mainly because it was so difficult for her to get out due to her arthritis which made mobility difficult. She only realised that it was possible to have an eye test at home when she saw one of our vans outside a neighbour's house and was able to take down our number off the side of the van. I think she was trying to impress me once again with her good eyesight.

Theresa had received notification in the post inviting her to attend for eye screening at her Doctor's surgery as part of the excellent Northern Ireland Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Service. Getting to the surgery was very difficult for Theresa, her GP always came out to see her and anyway as she wasn't having any problems she didn't feel that it was necessary. Sure enough, Theresa did have fantastic vision and didn't need any glasses for seeing far away. She did just need a new pair for reading. At first Theresa's eyes appeared very healthy but on detailed inspection we noticed a bleed on her retina which was indicative of quite serious Diabetic Retinopathy. We explained to Theresa about what we had found and recommended that she should get it checked at the hospital. Keen to keep her eyesight as good as possible, Theresa agreed and we referred her urgently to the Eye Department where she was assessed and treated to prevent further damage. Three years later we still go out to see Theresa and she can still see a "flea on Slieve Donard." A happy ending for Theresa.

Theresa, however was lucky as the only reason she had her eyes examined was that she just happened to see our van at a time when she had broken her reading glasses. Otherwise she would probably have carried on blissfully unaware of the potentially sight threatening bleed on her retina. It made us think of how many other people like Theresa were out in the community who may slip through the net because they were unable to get out to attend for Retinal Screening. With this in mind we wrote to GP surgeries all over Northern Ireland emphasising the importance of regular eyecare for their Diabetic patients and asked the Doctors to raise awareness of the availability of Domiciliary Eyecare. We have had numerous referrals from places such as Armagh, Carrickfergus, Derry and Omagh to name but a few. All thanks to Theresa's broken glasses.

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