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 to 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.
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% tropicamide). 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.
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.
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.
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.
I am pregnant, what do I do?
Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (known as “gestational diabetes”) do not need to attend for a diabetic eye test.
Women who had a diagnosis of diabetes before they became pregnant, require screening more frequently during pregnancy, as diabetic retinopathy can develop for the first time or worsen more quickly.
Because of this, eye screening is usually carried out at the first antenatal check and again at 28 weeks of pregnancy. Some women will also be screened when their pregnancy reaches 16 to 20 weeks (particularly women who showed some signs of diabetic retinopathy on their first set of photographs).
Please remember, it is important to attend screening as soon as possible after your pregnancy has been confirmed. If you have not received diabetic eye screening during the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy, please contact us.
Pregnant ladies who may have diabetes but not diagnosed before pregnancy, and get diagnosed during pregnancy, must be registered by GPs as diabetic as soon as possible and then referred to DESP.
More information on diabetic eye screening during pregnancy