Opticians could soon help identify millions of people with previously undiagnosed type II diabetes with a simple finger prick test, a study has recommended.
The study by Durham University found that 32% of 1,000 people were referred to their GP for further investigation after having their blood glucose levels tested at their opticians.
The blood test would be taken during routine eye appointments, to aid early diagnosis of the condition, which is the leading cause of blindness in the working age population.
Dr Jenny Howse, lead study author and former optician, said: “The screening test is less invasive and time consuming than fasting blood glucose and oral glucose tolerance tests.”
The test could ultimately reduce NHS costs and has potential for worldwide use.
The study suggests that diabetes testing in unconventional settings, such as opticians, chiropodists or dentists could detect the condition in those who do not visit their GP on a regular basis.
Dr Howse stated: “There is still a ‘hard-to-reach’ group who remain undiagnosed. Opticians could provide routine, non-emergency care and the simple screening can be done outside usual medical settings.”
It is estimated that 150 million people worldwide have diabetes but up to 50% of this figure are believed to be unaware, sometimes delaying diagnosis until complications occur.
“Already pharmacists and chiropodists have shown it is feasible to offer screening in their practices, here in the UK as well as in Australia and Switzerland. In the US, 60% of adults visit dentists at least once a year for standard check-ups and those practices could be suitable locations to screen for diabetes,” commented Dr Howse.
“We now need to look at the practicalities of delivering it, including liaison between opticians and GPs and the time costs for opticians.”