Your questions - patients

What is screening?

All people over the age of 12 years, with a diagnosis of diabetes should attend for an annual diabetic test.
Diabetic eye screening involves taking photographs of the back of your eyes to detect any changes (diabetic retinopathy) that can occur as a result of diabetes. If left untreated, it can get worse and cause some loss of vision, or blindness in severe cases.

Click this link for a video about what to expect at your visit:


Why should I attend screening?

Once your GP has confirmed that you have diabetes he/she will make a referral to us and request that we invite you for an eye test. Diabetic retinopathy is still one of the most common causes of visual loss in the working population so if you have diabetes it is vital to have your eyes checked regularly. A diabetic eye test is carried out once a year to identify early signs of diabetic retinopathy and this test is the best way to detect diabetic retinopathy before you notice any changes to your vision.

Where can I go for screening

NCL-DESP offers diabetic eye screening tests at 13 locations across the area including a mix of hospital and GP practice locations. 

Early morning and late evening appointments are available at many locations, as well as Saturday clinic

  • Please remember that only the locations listed on the map in this page are accredited to undertake diabetic eye screening. Accreditation means that, for the purpose of diabetic eye screening, these practices work to NHS standards and governance. 

    Do all people with diabetes need screening?

    Yes, all people over the age of 12 years, with a diagnosis of diabetes should attend for an annual diabetic eye screening test.
    The only exception to this would be for patients with diabetes who are already attending a hospital eye service and are under the continuing care of a medical retina clinic.

    Would I still need to go to my local optician?

    Yes. The invitation letter we send to all our patients will advise people to continue to see an optician for their routine sight test. The patient leaflet which is sent out with the initial invitation also reiterates that the screening test does not replace the normal eye sight test. 

    What if I am already attending a hospital eye clinic?

    If you are under the care of a hospital eye service (HES) for the management or treatment of diabetic eye disease, and we are in regular receipt of your results you may not need to attend for a diabetic eye screening test.
    However, if you are being seen for any other eye condition, including cataract, macular degeneration or glaucoma, it is still important that you attend for your diabetic eye screening test.

    What should I bring with me?

    Please bring your usual glasses with. You may also like to bring sunglasses to wear to go home as everything may look very bright

    Do the eye drops have any side effects? 

    In order that we can obtain good clear images of your eye it is necessary for us to use eye drops (1% tropic amide). The drops may cause stinging but this should wear off after a few seconds, however your sight may be slightly blurry for between 2-6 hours and will affect your ability to drive.

    Can I drive to or from my appointment?

    No. You should not drive for six hours after your appointment.  This is because the eye drops cause blurred vision for between two and six hours. You should not drive during this time.   

    What if I’m still experiencing discomfort after six hours?

    If after six hours you are still experiencing pain or discomfort, you should contact your GP. At evenings or weekends, contact your local accident and emergency department.

    Very rarely, the eye drops used for screening can cause a sudden rise in pressure within the eye. This only happens in people who are already at risk of developing this problem at some point in their lives. However, when it happens it needs prompt treatment in an eye unit. The symptoms of a sudden pressure rise in the eye are:

    •  pain or severe discomfort in your eye
    • redness of the white of your eye
    •  constantly blurred sight, sometimes with rainbow haloes around lights.

    If you experience any of these symptoms please attend your local accident and emergency department.

    When will I get my results?

    You will receive the results of your test by letter within three weeks of your screening test and your GP will be sent the results at the same time as these are sent to you.

    What does it mean if I get called back?

    If the photographs, taken at your visit, show signs of diabetic eye disease, a second qualified person will check the photographs. If the signs are confirmed and sight threatening, an eye specialist will look at the photographs. You will then be called to a hospital eye service (HES) eye clinic. 

    If the signs of diabetic eye disease are present but not threatening your sight, you may need to have more photographs taken to monitor the eye changes at a shorter interval than the normal 12 months. 

    Occasionally, the images taken are not of high enough quality to make a decision regarding the presence or absence of any diabetic eye disease. If this is the case we will call you back for a further test using different equipment, allowing us to make a final decision. You will receive a letter telling you of the recommendation.  - Information for patients who require more frequent monitoring

    What should I do if I notice a problem between appointments?

    If you notice problems with your eyes between screening visits do not wait until your next appointment but get advice urgently or visit your local A&E hospital

    How can I reduce the risk of getting diabetic eye disease?

    There are things that you can do to reduce your chances of developing complications:

    • have regular check-ups with your healthcare team – at least once a year
    • check that your healthcare team does a long-term check on your diabetes, such as an HbA1c test
    • test your blood glucose levels at home regularly
    • achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
    • keep your blood pressure and blood fats (eg cholesterol) under control
    • eat a healthy balanced diet
    • increase your level of physical activity
    • don't smoke.
  • If we identify that you have diabetic retinopathy you should discuss this with the GP who is looking after your diabetes to improve control of your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, and preferably avoid smoking. 

    If you have referable retinopathy identified at a screening appointment you will be referred and should attend for your hospital eye service outpatient appointment.

    Page last updated January 2018