News | 14 November 2023
Researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University have developed a novel approach to diabetes-related health surveillance that could detect the disease much earlier and reduce severe health risks.
The Wales Centre for Podiatric Studies, based at Cardiff Met, found that combining eye screenings and foot checks in one session could promote early diagnosis of health complications. Currently only diabetes-related eye tests are carried out routinely in Wales. Combining the testing would allow for timely interventions that could prevent not only diabetes related vision loss, but potentially lower limb loss and premature death from cardiovascular disease, while also reducing health care costs.
Cardiff Met carried out feasibility tests with the Diabetic Eye Screening Wales (DESW) team at routine eye tests for diabetes-related retinopathy at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and the University Hospital Wales. During the interval between pupil dilatation and retinal photography, as part of the eye screening procedure, patients underwent foot checks to detect diabetes-related foot conditions at the same time.
Of the 384 patients involved in the feasibility study, over a quarter (26%) of the participants had previously undiagnosed peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a complication of diabetes when blood flow to the feet is restricted.
Podiatry research lead at Cardiff Met, Dr Jane Lewis, also sees an opportunity for urine analysis and tests for abnormal heart rhythms to take place at the same time, making a “one stop shop” for diabetes screening.
She said: “Diabetic foot disease is one of the most devastating chronic complications of diabetes worldwide. Combined surveillance for diabetes-related complications would empower those with diabetes by increasing their knowledge and awareness of diabetes-related retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, neuropathy and nephropathy.
“Combining diabetes checks in community-based centres could advance early intervention for patients through earlier detection of sometimes asymptomatic complications. It would also reduce the number of outpatient appointments which would save medical professionals and the patient’s time by testing for multiple diabetes-related conditions at one time, in one place.”
Cardiff Met is working alongside Public Health Wales to try out the first model of its kind at its high street screening centre in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf, in early 2024, followed later in the year at its screening centre in Llanishen, north Cardiff.