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Published: 05 June 2024

Eye screening for people with diabetes - we answer your questions about Diabetic RetinaScreen

We offer free eye screening to people with diabetes. It’s for everyone over the age of 12 with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

We screen for an eye disease called retinopathy. We look for changes to the back of your eyes – the retina - that could be a sign of this disease. If diabetic retinopathy is caught early, treatment can reduce or prevent damage to your eyesight.

Diabetic RetinaScreen is free and if treatment is needed, this is also free of charge.

So, what is diabetic retinopathy?

It’s a complication of diabetes that affects the small blood vessels at the back of the eye. It’s caused by high blood glucose levels which can damage these vessels.

Why is diabetic eye screening important?

Diabetic retinopathy is largely treatable when it is found early through regular screening. It may not affect your sight in the early stages, but if it’s not found and treated, it will damage your eyesight and can cause sight loss over time.

This is why it’s important to attend for screening every time you’re invited.

How do I get a screening appointment?

First, you must register with Diabetic RetinaScreen. There are two ways you can do this:

  • You can ask your GP, practice nurse, dietitian, eye doctor or other healthcare professionals to register you.
  • You can register yourself at www.hse.ie/diabeticretinascreen - fill in the registration form online, print it, ask your GP to sign it, and post it to us.

When we get this information from you or your GP, we’ll send you a letter inviting you to agree (consent) to take part in screening. We’ll add your details to our register when you give your consent.

We’ll then send you an invitation to attend your free screening appointment at a local screening centre. We have 140 screening locations across the country.

If you’re under the age of 16, your parent or guardian will need to go with you to your appointment.

We can help you if you have access needs and need support during your appointment. Email our access officer: access@diabeticretinascreen.ie or freephone 1800 45 45 55.

How often do I have to go for screening?

We’ll invite you for screening once a year when you join the register.

What happens at my appointment?

Your appointment will take about 30 minutes.

  • We’ll ask for your consent to give you eye drops to make your pupils larger. This helps us to get a a better picture. The eye drops will blur your vision and it may sting a little.
  • We’ll ask you to wait for about 10 minutes while the eye drops work.
  • We’ll take photos of the back of your eyes with a digital camera. The camera does not touch your eyes.
  • We’ll check the photos to make sure we get a good-quality image before we send you home.

After your appointment

Your eyesight may be blurry for about 4 to 6 hours after your screening. You may need to arrange transport to bring you home as you should not drive until your eyesight returns to normal. If your eyes are sensitive, bring sunglasses to wear after your screening.

When will I get my results?

We’ll send your results to you by letter usually within 3 weeks of your appointment. We’ll also send a copy to your GP.

Most people will have a normal test result – no retinopathy found.

If you need treatment, we’ll refer you to one of our treatment clinics in a hospital. This will be free of charge and we’ll give you all the details you need.

If you have any questions about your screening results, you should ask your GP.

What if I notice changes to my eyesight after screening?

Diabetic retinopathy screening is not a replacement for your regular eye exam. Screening will not pick up every sign of disease. If you notice changes to your sight, or have any concerns about your eyes, you should talk to your GP, optician or eye doctor immediately. Do not wait until your next screening appointment.

Some changes to watch out for are:

  • sudden vision loss
  • spots floating in your vision (floaters)
  • blurred or fluctuating vision.

Screening for women with diabetes who become pregnant

We offer eye screening more often to women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes who become pregnant. This is because the risk of diabetic retinopathy may increase during pregnancy. Your maternity service, diabetes nurse or hospital doctor will refer you for screening.

Where can I get more information?

We have lots of resources that can help you understand more about your diabetic eye screening:

Screening is your choice. Diabetic eye screening is an important part of your diabetes management and care. A healthy retina is necessary for good eyesight. You can help to keep your eyes healthy by taking your diabetes medication as prescribed and managing your blood glucose levels and blood pressure.