Eye Doctors and Counties Manukau specialist Dr Penny McAllum has just returned from her fifth trip to the island of Niue, where she provides eye care to the 1400 residents. This year was a short trip, focused on diabetic screening. It was just one diabetic photo screener, the Australia-based Niuean eye nurse and Dr McAllum on this visit during which more than 80 patients were assessed.
Dr McAllum always involves the local doctors with the eye patients whenever they are available. It was a good teaching opportunity for Dr McAllum to show the local doctors how to diagnose iritis and operate the slit lamp. This helps them manage eye patients between the team's visits. They also keep in touch via email.
The vast majority of patients Dr McAllum saw this year were suffering from diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is a big problem in Niue, with about 250 diabetics in the small population. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to diabetes, but lifestyle and dietary factors also contribute. Dr McAllum referred 7 diabetic patients back to New Zealand
for laser or surgical treatment on this trip, and was able to start treatment with avastin injections on a few of them. The local television crew interviewed her at the hospital and featured the Eye Team on their news that night. It was a great chance to get the word out in the community that diabetes can cause serious eye problems, and that, as well
as good control, it needs regular screening to catch it before vision is lost.
Dr McAllum really enjoys her visits to Niue. She finds it very rewarding to catch up with the many patients and staff who she now knows quite well, and to feel like her trips are making a difference to eye health in Niue.