Diabetes Association of Jamaica targets 1,200 people

Sunday, March 19, 2017    

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The Diabetes Association is offering free retinal screening to 1,200 people with diabetes and hypertension, free of charge.

The initiative, which also includes free sugar tests, is being undertaken in partnership with the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, and Education (CHASE) Fund.

the association is therefore urging people with diabetes to visit its offices at 1 Downer Avenue, Kingston 5, on Saturdays to have the retinal (eye) screening done.

According to the association, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and other very costly complications affecting the kidneys, heart and limbs.


All diabetics are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, whihc is a micro vascular complication of diabetes that is an important cause of vision loss in adults. Screening for diabetic retinopathy to detect and monitor progression has been shown to be effective in the prevention of vision loss, and to be cost effective.

Screening involves an examination of the retina at the back of the eye and a test of visual acuity. This can be done by medical practitioners or optometrists who dilate the eye’s pupil to examine the retina. Special cameras can also be used to capture an image or photograph of the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy is asymptomatic in its early stages and vision might not be affected until the disease becomes severe and much less amenable to treatment. Laser treatment is very effective for prevention of vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy; however, laser treatment cannot restore vision that has already been lost. Therefore, it is essential to detect and treat diabetic retinopathy before any vision loss occurs.

The association said the Ministry of Health guidelines on the management of diabetic retinopathy recommend an eye examination at diagnosis of diabetes and then every year for all people with diabetes. In ideal circumstances, people with diabetes will have their disease under good control and will have eye examinations as recommended.


Blood glucose control is the major modifiable risk factor influencing the development and progression of retinopathy.

According to the association, based on data from the ministry, approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes are receiving adequate screening and follow-up for diabetic retinopathy.

The gold standard of diabetes control and risk of complications is the Haemoglobin A1c test that is required to be done by people with diabetes every three months.


The A1C test is a common blood test used to measure the control of type 1 and type 2, hence how well you’re managing your diabetes. The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications,

For people with diabetes, an A1C level of seven per cent or less is a common treatment target. If your A1C level is above your target, your doctor may recommend a change in your diabetes treatment plan.

The higher your A1C level, the higher your risk of diabetes complications.

The association said based on the ministry’s management of diabetes care, all diabetics should have their retina screened once per year. Only 10 per cent of the 250,000 people reportedly affected by diabetes are having this screening done.

The Diabetes Association of Jamaica, which is a charitable organisation that functions on the work of volunteers and has been providing diabetes care for the past 40 years, offers retinal screening to all its patients and is available to the public.

The association said, in offering this service to a wider cross section of the population, it has now found out that A1c, which is the gold standard measurement for the control of diabetes and risk of complications was not being done.

According to the association, 70 per cent of new patients were doing A1c for the first time (known or explained to them) and all readings were higher than 10 per cent, with some not being able to be read by the machine.

The association is therefore on a mission to meet its target of providing free eye screening and A1c (sugar) tests for 1,200 people with diabetes and hypertension free of charge.





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