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The experience of diabetic retinopathy: A qualitative study


Siobhan O’Neill, University of Ulster, Northland Road, Londonderry, BT48 7JL, Northern Ireland (e-mail:


Objectives. The aim of this study was to address the gap in our understanding of the experiences of people with diabetic retinopathy (DR) and how they manage their daily lives.

Methods. Individual, semi-structured interviews were held with 10 individuals residing in Co. Donegal, Ireland who were diagnosed with diabetes and had visual loss as a result of retinopathy. Verbatim transcripts of these interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results. The main themes identified in the qualitative analysis were losses resulting from DR; coping with the emotional impact of loss; and self-management and lifestyle. DR was associated with a number of losses. The visual loss was accompanied by a sense of dependence, social isolation, and the loss of important social and occupational roles. The perceived loss of independence and mobility resulted in a need for support in managing the lifestyle changes necessary for good blood sugar control particularly with regard to exercise. A variety of coping strategies were employed and social and family support was perceived to be important to maintain psychological well-being.

Conclusions. The findings highlight the importance of providing these individuals with appropriate professional support to facilitate the management of both conditions.