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About your free NHS Diabetic Eye Screening

About your free NHS eye screening which looks for diabetic retinopathy


Published 17 August 2021
 

Contents

― Why should I have eye screening?
Why is eye screening important for me?
― What is diabetic retinopathy?
― Will I have diabetic eye screening when I go to the optician?
― What will happen at my eye screening appointment?
― What do I need to think about on the day of my appointment?
― What if I need support with my appointment?
― How effective is eye screening?
― Can eye screening stop me from getting retinopathy?
― Do all people with diabetes need to be screened?
What happens if I have diabetic retinopathy?
What treatment is there for diabetic retinopathy?
How can I reduce my risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?
Where did you obtain my personal details?
Where can I find out more?

 

 

  • People aged 12 and over diagnosed with diabetes will be invited to regular eye screening.
  • Eye screening can save your sight.
  • Eye screening looks for retinopathy (damage to the back of the eye).
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a treatable condition.
  • Eye screening is important because it detects changes before you notice them.
  • The best way to look for diabetic retinopathy is to take a picture of the back of your eyes.
  • Eye screening is carried out at local health clinics, hospitals or mobile units by a trained Eye Screener.

Eye screening does not replace your normal eye test. You will still need to go to your opticians.

 

Why should I have eye screening?

Your GP has asked us to screen your eyes. This service is free and part of your overall diabetes care.

Your diabetes means that you are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease (diabetic retinopathy). Diabetic eye disease can cause sight loss.

Eye screening can detect the condition early before you notice any changes to your vision.

Normal Eye - Healthy blood vessels 

Eye with Retinopathy - tiny blood vessels leak fluid into the retina

 

Why is eye screening important for me?

If changes are found in time, diabetic eye disease can be treated, preventing sight loss for most people. Attending your regular eye screening when invited can detect diabetic retinopathy early.

 

What is diabetic retinopathy?

This condition affects small blood vessels in the back of the eye (the retina). It can cause the blood vessels to leak or become blocked.

The retina is the seeing part of the eye, if it is damaged it can affect your vision.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, you may not notice any changes that affect your sight.

However, if left untreated, this condition can get worse and affect your vision. Diabetic retinopathy can progress and cause irreversible sight loss, including blindness.
 

Will I have diabetic eye screening when I go to the optician?

No, diabetic eye screening is different from your regular eye test with an optician. To keep your eyes healthy it is important you regularly attend for both your optician and diabetic eye screening.

 

What will happen at my eye screening appointment?

  • Your appointment will take about 40 minutes.
  • When you arrive, we will discuss the screening process with you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
  • Drops will be put in your eyes to make your pupils bigger. This will help us take clearer pictures of the back of your eyes.

Normal pupil

Pupil after eye drops (dilated)

  • Some people find the drops uncomfortable for a short while.
  • You will need to wait for about 20 minutes for the drops to work.
  • Your sight may become blurry. This may last for several hours, making it unsafe to drive or operate machinery. You are advised not to drive for at least 4 hours.
  • We will then take photos of the back of your eyes using a special camera with a flash.
  • You won’t receive your results on the day.
  • The photos of your eyes are then sent to be checked for diabetic retinopathy by our specialist team.
  • You will receive your results letter in the post within eight weeks.
  • Your results will also be sent to your GP.

 

What do I need to think about on the day of my appointment?

  • Bring all the glasses you wear along with you.
  • If you normally wear contact lenses you will need to remove these, so bring your lenses case and solution. 
  • Bring sunglasses as your eyes can feel sensitive to light after the eye drops. This is a good idea even if it is dark outside.
  • Bring a snack as some venues may not have food facilities; particularly if you have dietary needs.
  • You will not be able to drive for some time after your appointment. You may wish to bring someone with you to help you.
  • You may find it difficult to monitor your glucose levels while the eye drops are making your vision blurry.
  • While your vision is blurred after the eye drops, this may make insulin dosing more difficult. We are not familiar with your devices and are unable to assist you. You may need extra support during this time.

 

What if I need support with my appointment?

If you need help with your screening appointment please let us know. You should call us on 0300 003 0500 if you:

  • Need this information in another format, e.g. easy read.
  • Need an interpreter for your appointment, e.g. BSL or if Welsh or English is not your first language.

Family members will not be able to translate for you. You will need to let us know before your appointment so we can arrange this for you.

  • Have a disability, so we can make sure the screening venue we offer is suitable.
  • Think you might not be able to sit in the right position at our cameras.

Camera seating position

  • Have a family member or carer who may need to help you at your appointment.
  • Plan to use hospital transport to come to clinic (although we cannot arrange this for you).

If you are a carer helping someone who might not be able to consent to receive screening, please get in touch with us before the appointment.

If you are a carer with Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare for the invited person, please bring identification and the Power of Attorney document to clinic.

 

Answering your questions


How effective is eye screening?

Eye screening is a key part of your diabetes care. Untreated diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of sight loss. Screening can detect changes in the retina at an early stage, before you are aware of them.

Diabetic eye screening will identify eye changes in more than 19 people in 20. If these changes are detected in time, treatment is very effective at preventing sight loss in the majority of people.

Around 1 in 50 people that have the test will be referred to an eye specialist for investigation or treatment of their retinopathy.
 

Can eye screening stop me from getting retinopathy?

No. Eye screening can find retinopathy at an early stage, but does not stop it developing.
 

Do all people with diabetes need to be screened?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and are aged 12 years or over, you will be invited. The only exception is people who have no sight at all in both eyes.

Regardless of how your diabetes is controlled, whether you attend your GP or a hospital consultant, you still need to attend for screening.
 

What happens if I have diabetic retinopathy?

Depending on the level of diabetic retinopathy and any sight loss, you may be referred to a specialist eye clinic for further assessment and treatment.

Eye screening can identify retinopathy that may not require treatment. Most people with retinopathy (9 out of 10) are monitored through yearly screening and do not need to be referred.
 

What treatment is there for diabetic retinopathy?

Laser treatment and eye injections are both very effective at preventing sight loss in most people if carried out at the right time. The specialist at the hospital will explain this to you.

Whether or not you have diabetic retinopathy, it is always important to try and keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol at your target levels. This can slow or reverse early eye damage caused by retinopathy.
 

How can I reduce my risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?

  • Manage your diabetes closely, including checking your blood glucose.
  • Attend your diabetes appointments and see your GP regularly to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Take your medication as prescribed. 
  • Do not smoke. For advice and support or to find your local stop smoking service, visit: www.helpmequit.wales
  • Speak to your GP or optician if you notice any changes to your sight.
  • Attend your diabetic eye screening appointments when invited.
  • Eat well.
  •  Move more.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.

REMEMBER: Eye screening is just a part of managing your diabetes and diabetic retinopathy is treatable, especially if it is caught early.
 

How we use information about you

We need to keep your personal information so we know if and when you have had an appointment or whether you have decided not to have one.

Your screening records, including photographs and records of actions taken, are held by the screening programme.

For more information, our privacy statement is available on Diabetic Eye Screening website.

If you would like a hard copy, please contact our screening centre on 0300 003 0500.

Where did you obtain my personal details?

Details about you, and information relating to your diabetes, are received from your GP by the screening programme. This includes your name, date of birth, address. We might also store information that will affect your screening appointments (e.g. language needs).

Your information will not be passed outside the NHS. If you do not wish to have your information passed to the screening programme, you should discuss this with your GP as we will be unable to screen you.
 

Where can I find out more?

Where can I find out more? It is your choice whether to have screening or not. If you decide you do not want any more invitations, you can opt out by contacting us. For further information visit the Diabetic Eye Screening website.

Diabetic Eye Screening Wales, 1 Fairway Court, Upperboat, Treforest CF37 5UA, 0300 003 0500.

We welcome correspondence and phone calls in Welsh. We will respond to correspondence in Welsh without delay.

You can read more about eye screening and diabetic retinopathy at:

NHS UK: Diabetic Eye Screening

Diabetes.ORG: Retinopathy

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