Eye Damage

Diabetic Retinopathy


Diabetic Retinopathy Screening in Ireland Diabetic RetinaScreen offers regular eye screening to people with diagnosed diabetes, aged 12 years and over, who are registered with the programme.

How can I check I am on the register?
You can check if you are on the register (list) by ringing Freephone 1800 45 45 55 (choose option 4), and if not, your GP (family doctor) can contact us to ensure your details are added.

We will need to confirm some of your personal details to check whether you are on our register:

  • Forename(s) and middle names
  • Surname (or family name)
  • Surname at birth
  • Date of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • GP (family doctor) details

Note – Diabetic RetinaScreen commenced screening at the end of February 2013 and is being introduced on a phased basis.

About diabetic retinopathy screening, Regular eye screening is the best way to detect diabetic retinopathy before you notice any changes in your sight.

Specialised digital photography is used to look for changes that could affect your sight.

When the condition is caught early, treatment is effective at reducing or preventing damage to your sight.
Diabetic retinopathy eye screening is a key part of your diabetes care.

Who can take part? Anybody* with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, aged 12 and older and living in Ireland, will be invited to take part if they are on the Diabetic RetinaScreen register.

Diabetic RetinaScreen commenced screening at the end of February 2013 and is being introduced on a phased basis.
If you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes please Freephone 1800 45 45 55 (choose option 4) to check if you are on the Diabetic RetinaScreen register.

If you are under 16 your parent or guardian will need to accompany you to any appointments.

Your GP (family doctor) can register you by ringing 1800 45 45 55 (choose option 4).

*The only exclusion is those who have no perception of light in both eyes.

How do I take part? If you are on the register, you will be invited by letter to attend for screening.

When you get the letter if you would like to participate, you must call Freephone 1800 45 45 55 to consent to give the programme permission to receive, hold and share your personal details within the programme.

You will then be sent an appointment letter to attend for free diabetic retinopathy screening at a local screening centre.

If you are under the age of 16 you must be accompanied by your parent or guardian.

About the screening appointment, The screening appointment takes place in a Photography and Grading centre. This involves taking two photographs of each eye. At the eye screening appointment, drops will be put into your eyes to temporarily make your pupils larger. You may find that the drops sting.

Photographs of the back of your eyes are taken with a digital camera. The camera does not touch your eyes. Photographs are sent to an expert to review.

The appointment will last about 30 minutes.

Tips for the day of your appointment

  • If you wear glasses (distance glasses in particular) or contact lenses bring them along. You should also bring a lens solution for contacts
  • Your eyes can feel sensitive after the eye drops – sunglasses may help
  • You should not drive or operate machinery after your eye screening appointment as the eye drops will affect your sight for up to nine hours
  • You should eat as normal, there is no need to fast

Results You should receive your results letter by post about three weeks after your appointment. Your GP (family doctor) will also be sent a copy of the results.

Most people will have a normal result. This will mean they have no retinopathy or have early changes to their retina (or eyes) and will be invited back for routine diabetic retinopathy eye screening.

You will be contacted for a further appointment if:

  • The photographs are not clear enough to give a result
  • You have diabetic retinopathy which needs to be assessed (link here to diabetic retinopathy section)
  • Other eye conditions not caused by diabetes are detected and need to be assessed

Any follow-up or further assessments that are recommended as part of the diabetic retinopathy screening programme are provided free of charge.

Possible outcomes from diabetic retinopathy screening are:

No diabetic retinopathy detected
The result was normal. This means that there were no diabetic eye changes found on this occasion.

Background diabetic retinopathy is detected 
This indicates that some minor changes were detected. These changes are caused by diabetes but do not warrant a referral to an eye specialist. Background retinopathy does not need treatment and does not affect your eyesight. It can sometimes improve without treatment and is not deemed to be of any concern during the course of the following year. It is very important that you come to your next screening appointment because if these changes progress your vision may be affected in the future. It is important to control your blood glucose and blood pressure in order to prevent these changes from progressing.

Pre-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is detected
This is where there are changes detected in the retina that do not require treatment but need to be monitored closely as there is a risk that they may progress and affect the eyesight. A referral will be made to an Ophthalmology Clinic. It is important that you attend this appointment.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is detected
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs where fragile new blood vessels form on the surface of the retina. The normal blood vessels in the retina become blocked and the blood flow to the retina reduces. This means new blood vessels form in the eye and try to make a new blood supply. While the new vessels themselves do not cause any change in your vision they can bleed or develop scar tissue causing severe loss of sight. Symptoms include:

  • blurred vision
  • loss of vision
  • dark or floating spots

Without treatment, proliferative retinopathy may result in total loss of sight, and it is very important that these changes are fully assessed as you may require treatment. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is treated using laser treatment or injection. Screening aims to find proliferative diabetic retinopathy at an earlier stage before the vision has been affected when it is easier to treat. A referral will be made on your behalf to an Ophthalmology Clinic and you will receive an appointment letter. It is important that you attend this appointment.

Diabetic macular oedema is detected 
Diabetic macular oedema occurs where leaky blood vessels affect the part of the retina called the macula which is needed for clear sharp vision. If there is leakage of fluid from these vessels that affects the centre of the macula the sight will be affected. A referral will be made on your behalf to an Ophthalmology Clinic and you will receive an appointment letter. It is important that you attend this appointment. Macular oedema is treated using laser or injections. Screening aims to find diabetic macular oedema at an earlier stage before the vision has been affected when it is easier to treat.

Sometimes in screening, other eye conditions may be identified, however, if you have any concerns about your eyes or your sight, please contact your GP (family doctor) or optician.

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