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Diabetic eye screening FAQs

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is caused when diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the retina. The vessels can leak and become blocked. The retina is the “seeing” part of the eye and if left untreated diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness. It does not usually affect your sight until it is quite advanced and more difficult to treat.

What can I do to help reduce the risk of getting it?

You can reduce the risk of your retinopathy getting worse if:

  • you continue to attend your diabetic eye screening appointments every year
  • your blood sugar (HbA1c) is kept at the levels agreed with your health care team
  • you see your health care team regularly to check your blood pressure is not raised
  • your blood fats (cholesterol) are kept at the levels agreed with your health care team
  • you get professional advice if you notice any new problems with your sight
  • you eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • you try to lose excess weight if you are overweight
  • you take your medication as prescribed
  • you exercise regularly
  • you try to cut down or stop smoking if you are a smoker

Who do you screen for diabetic retinopathy?

All people with diabetes aged 12 and over should have their eyes screened. National guidelines state that this also includes people who have had bariatric surgery or who no longer show the symptoms of diabetes.

How do I get my appointment?

Your appointment letter will automatically be sent out to you in the post.

I’ve received my appointment letter but I can’t make that date or time – what should I do?

If the appointment is not convenient, it is important that you tell us so that we can change it to a more suitable time and place. Our phone number for appointments and general enquiries is 01904 726640. We have an answer machine to take messages for calls outside office hours.

I will not be able to attend for a few months due to holidays/sickness/working away - what are my options?

If you are only going to be away for a few weeks we can book your appointment for when you get back. If you are away for a longer period, then we can postpone your appointment up to 6 months. It is recommended that you attend screening every year.

How long will my screening appointment take?

We suggest that you allow 30 - 40 minutes for your screening appointment.

What happens at the screening appointment?

The screener will test your vision and put drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils.

We use a special type of camera to take digital photographs of the retina at the back of your eyes

Does it hurt?

No, the screener does not touch your eyes when they are taking the photographs. Sometimes the dilating drops sting for a few seconds and you will be encouraged to blink to help with this.

Can I drive immediately after my screening appointment?

Your sight may be blurry for a few hours and you shouldn’t drive until it returns to normal.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

Please bring your appointment letter and any glasses that you wear for distance vision (reading glasses are not required). We also recommend that you bring sunglasses because your eyes can feel sensitive after the eye drops.

I have limited ability – can I still be screened?

We are trained to care for people of different abilities and will support you through the appointment.  We will work at your pace and make sure that you are comfortable.

I speak a different language to English, are there interpreter services available?

Interpretation services are available. You can arrange this service by calling our admin office. Our phone number for appointments and general enquiries is 01904 726640.

Is there adequate wheelchair access at the screening venues?

All our screening venues are accessible to all people. Please let us know if you are eligible for hospital transport and we will book you a suitable screening venue. You will need to book the transport yourself by calling 0300 330 2000.

Who will get a copy of my results?

We will send you and your GP your results in the post within 3 weeks of your appointment.

I don’t understand my results – who should I call?

You can call our office to speak to a qualified member of staff about your results. Our phone number for appointments and general enquiries is 01904 726640.

I have been told I have pre-proliferative retinopathy or maculopathy - what happens next?

You will be asked to have a further screening test with us within 3 months if you have signs of diabetic retinopathy / maculopathy that has progressed but does not yet require treatment. We will refer you to see an eye specialist at your local hospital if we think you might need treatment.

What treatment is available?

Laser treatment is used to treat proliferative diabetic retinopathy and maculopathy. Some people with maculopathy may be offered VEG F inhibitors which is a drug that is injected into the eye. This helps to reduce fluid in the macula (the central seeing part of the eye) and is an effective treatment in reducing the risk of sight loss. Your eye specialist will explain the treatment to you at the time of the appointment. It is important that you attend the appointment to make sure that you are fully aware of the risks of choosing to have, or not have any treatment.

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