Simple Test During Eye Exams Could Diagnose Diabetes

A simple blood test during routine eye exams would likely diagnose millions of cases of Type 2 diabetes, according to a recent Durham University study.

An estimated 150 million people have Type 2 diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. Tens of millions of people, however, are thought to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, which may only be detected when related health problems arise.

The Durham University research indicates that testing for the disease in unconventional settings such as optometry offices and dental clinics would identify a significant number of instances of Type 2 diabetes in time to begin treatment before complications occur. The study, which was published in the July issue of the British Journal of General Practice, found that 32 percent of 1,000 people visiting an optician for an eye test and presenting risk factors for diabetes were referred to their general physicians for follow-up diagnosis after blood-glucose level tests.

While even most pharmacies have the ability to conduct the basic finger-prick blood test necessary to identify Type 2 diabetes, most diabetes screenings are conducted in doctors’ offices, medical clinics and hospitals. Ophthalmologists and optometrists, however, already have an understanding of diabetes and its effects on eye health; vision care professionals frequently screen diabetes patients for eye diseases.

Dr. Jenny Howse of the Durham University School of Medicine and Health, the study’s lead author and a former optician, said healthcare professionals such as eye doctors and dentists are an untapped resource in identifying diabetes in patients who do not routinely visit their family physicians.

“Opticians could provide routine, non-emergency care and the simple screening can be done outside usual medical settings,” said Howse in the article “Screening and Identifying Diabetes in Optometric Practice: A Prospective Study”.

To learn more about the links between diabetes and vision health, please contact an ophthalmologist near you.