More than 4,500 people from Liverpool with diabetes are taking part in a new a clinical trial designed to help transform early detection of diabetic eye disease.

In the University of Liverpool trial - one of the largest of its kind and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - participants will undergo a new innovative screening method that aims to better calculate the risk of diabetic retinopathy for each patient.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of visual loss in the world and can be prevented if it is detected early. High blood sugar causes the fine blood vessels in the retina to leak fluid or to close resulting in the retina becoming starved of oxygen and waterlogged.

Currently, a patient with diabetic retinopathy will generally not be aware of the problem until vision declines, but at this stage the damage is often irreversible, and prompt laser treatment, injections of drugs into the eye, or complex surgery, is required.

All diabetes patients are currently screened once a year under a blanket approach; the new detection method being tested will see those deemed at low risk checked every two years and those at highest risk twice a year, in the hope of bring able to accurately tailor diagnosis and treatment to the individual.

"Attending high numbers of clinics each year is a huge problem for people with diabetes so it is important to shape methods of detection to the individual's needs so that it causes minimal disruption to their lives and crucially catches signs of the disease at the earliest opportunity," noted Professor Simon Harding, from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease and Chair of Clinical Ophthalmology at St Paul's Eye Unit.