Diabetic Eye Screening - The Examination


The Department of Health has set up a National Screening Programme for Diabetic Retinopathy. If you are diabetic and aged 12 years old and over you will be offered photographic screening every year. Screening is a proven and effective way of detecting Diabetic Retinopathy as early as possible. If we find sight-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy, we will refer you to the hospital eye department for further investigation. For more information on Diabetic Retinopathy visit our section "Diabetic Retinopathy - The Facts."


What is "Screening" for Diabetic Retinopathy?

  • Screening means examining your eyes regularly to detect any presence of Diabetic Retinopathy.
  • Screening will detect whether you need to be followed up or treated in an eye clinic for Diabetic Retinopathy. 
  • If you do not need to be followed up or treated in an eye clinic, you will be advised to return for screening at least once a year.


 Why is it important to screen for Diabetic Retinopathy?

  • Untreated Diabetic Retinopathy is one of the most common causes of blindness in the working- age population.
  • In most cases there will be no symptoms for Diabetic Retinopathy until it is at an advanced stage and even when it is classed as "Sight-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy" there are often no symptoms.
  • Laser treatment is very effective at reducing loss of sight from Diabetic Retinopathy.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy does not usually affect your sight until it has reached an advanced stage. At this stage laser treatment is far less effective.

Screening is only designed to detect Diabetic Retinopathy and does not always detect other eye conditions such as Cataracts or Glaucoma.


What exactly happens during retinopathy screening?

  • You will receive a letter offering a screening appointment. The screening may be at your GP’s surgery, at the hospital or at another place nearby.
  • Your GP and the local screening programme will have your details. Everyone involved must keep to the same duties of care and confidentiality. Your details will not be passed to private companies or other organisations outside the NHS without your permission. The invitation that you receive through the post will tell you where to go.
  • The procedure will be explained to you when you arrive. Feel free to ask any questions you have before and during the screening.
  • You will have a brief history taken about your Diabetes and also if you have had any problems/injuries/treaments/conditions with your eyes.
  • You will undertake a vision test in which you may require your spectacles.
  • You will need eye drops to make your pupils large enough for clear photographs
  • You will have your photographs taken of your retina. The camera does not touch your eyes or blow any air at your eyes. You will see a bright flash of light each time a photograph is taken. The light is bright but should not be uncomfortable.


Do the Drops have any effects?

  • The drops may cause some stinging but should wear off after a few seconds.
  • They will take 15 minutes to work after which your photographs will be taken.
  • After about 15 minutes your sight may be slightly brighter and blurry and it will be difficult to focus on objects near to you.
  • This will last for between 2 - 6 hours and will affect your ability to drive.

You should not drive to and from your appointment.


What do I need to bring with me?

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


What happens next?

At the end of the screening procedure, the screening staff will not be able to give you your final result, as the photographs may need to be examined by more than one person. Professionals who have been trained to detect and grade diabetic retinopathy will examine your photographs along with any of your previous photographs. However, they will tell you approximately when you will receive your final written result. Make sure that you have this information before you leave.

The screening staff will also send the result of your screening test to your GP, where applicable your hospital consultant and to the co-ordinators of the National Screening Programme. Nobody else will receive your result unless you give permission. You may want to discuss the results with your healthcare team.

What does it mean if I am called back?

You will be called back for assessment if:

  • potential sight-threatening retinopathy is noticed which needs a follow-up or potentail treatment in a hospital eye clinic;
  • the photographs are not clear enough to give an accurate result;
  • other eye conditions are detected by chance and they need more investigations.

How can I reduce my risks of getting sight-threatening eye changes?

  • Aim to control your blood glucose levels as well as possible.
  • Make sure you blood pressure is regularly monitored.
  • Go for regular eye screening.
  • Go for regular diabeties check up.

For your health in general you should have regular cholesterol checks and refrain from smoking.


If you have any problems with your eyes between screening appointments DO NOT wait until your next appointment. Get professional advice.


If you would like any further information then you can contact the Gloucestershire Diabetic Eye screening service:

Gloucestershire Diabetic Eye Screening Service
Orchard Centre
Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Great Western Road

Tel : 0300 422 2173/2216